First Advisor

Liu-Qin Yang

Term of Graduation

Winter 2023

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Humor in the workplace, Belonging (Social psychology), Well-being



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 130 pages)


The small body of literature for workplace humor remains fragmented due to the lack of coherence in conceptualization and theory. Furthermore, the distinction between positive and negative humor adds complexity to predicting the outcomes of humor. Focusing on the foundation aspect of humor as a form of social play provides guidance on choosing a theory-informed integrative framework that could explain the implications of humor in the workplace. The belongingness need tenet of the self-determination theory offers a promising framework to synthesize existing research and to direct future studies. Paper 1 reviews the literature and concludes with an integrative framework suggesting that the satisfaction and frustration of the belongingness need can explain the shared and distinct outcomes of positive and negative humor. Furthermore, Paper 2 empirically tests a representative research model to find supporting evidence in a two-wave survey design that samples employees from various industries using two online self-report surveys taken a month apart. Although the analyses based on the matched Time-Time 2 sample (N = 84) did not reveal significant findings for the hypotheses, I found significant results using Time 1 data only (N = 356) in the supplementary analyses. These results suggested that the belongingness need aligns with the social aspect of humor and explains humor’s underlying psychosocial processes. Specifically, belongingness need satisfaction positively related to positive humor, and furthermore mediated the relations between positive humor and the outcomes, namely vitality and organizational citizenship behaviors directed toward individuals (OCB-I). Belongingness need frustration positively related to negative humor, and furthermore mediated the relations between negative humor and the outcomes, namely emotional exhaustion and counterproductive work behaviors directed toward individuals (CWB-I). These results demonstrate the need to separate positive and negative humor when determining workplace humor’s overall conceptualization. The findings further both the humor and SDT literature by expanding, organizing, and distinguishing nomological networks of focal variables, adding to the understanding of two universal experiences, humor and psychological needs.


© 2022 Katharine Lucille McMahon

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