Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Can You Take a Joke?

 by Julie Hanus

Tags: Spirituality, mindful living, laughter, gelotophobia, fear, teasing, psychology,

People who “can’t take a joke” are often pegged as spoilsports—but recent research suggests that there might be more going on. According to Science News, gelotophobia is the fear of being laughed at, characterized by difficulty distinguishing mean-spirited teasing from the friendly variety.

Gelotophobes flew under the radar until the mid 1990s, when psychologist Willibald Ruch of the University of Zurich identified the personality trait and began researching it. “That shame is a predominant emotion in gelotophobia explains, in part, why the affliction received little scrutiny from scientists for so long,” the biweekly magazine reports. “Burning shame can create more feelings of shame and is rarely acknowledged to others.”

Ruch and his colleages have now developed questionnaires and assessment tools to help identify the trait. They’ve surveyed 23,000 people in 73 countries, finding gelotophobia present in all countries, from 2 to 30 percent of each population. In the United States that figure is 11 percent.

So on the one hand, we’ve got a new name for a trait that’s been under our noses all along. On the other, perhaps this emerging understanding of the spectrum of ways people perceive laughter could help us all get along a little better. Just one question remains: Can you take a joke?

Source: Science News