Humor and the problem solving behavior of married couples

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The study was designed to measure the effects of a humorous experience on the problem solving behavior of married couples. Twenty married couples were randomly assigned to either a treatment or non-treatment group. Treatment couples viewed a humorous videotape prior to completing Olson and Ryder's Inventory of Marital Conflict (IMC). All couples were videotaped during their discussions of the IMC case situations and the tapes were later coded using Olson and Ryder's Marital and Family Interaction Coding System (MFICS). Data from the MFICS and the Post Discussion Form of the IMC were used in the statistical analysis.

Couples who watched the tape prior to problem solving reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction with their decisions than couples who did not experience humor. They also reported a significantly higher level of involvement in discussing case situations that were similar to their own experiences than did the non-treatment group.

It was predicted that treatment couples would experience less conflict and laugh more than non-treatment couples. This did not happen. It was also expected that there would be an interaction between the level of conflict that couples exhibited with the treatment condition and that the interaction would affect amounts of satisfaction and laughter. This did not demonstrate significance.

The findings suggest that married couples can benefit from the use of humor prior to problem solving. They appear to be more focused in their efforts and to experience higher levels of satisfaction with the results.