From 'I' to 'we': The role of putdown humor and identity in the development of a temporary group

Jenepher Lennox Terrion, Blake Ashforth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


Participant observation of a 6-week Executive Development Course suggests that humor provides a key mechanism for enacting a sense of community for group members. Specifically the study examines the process through which putdown humor helps foster group identity and cohesion in a temporary group. Putdowns followed a pattern of development that signaled increasing trust and inclusion, and was regulated by implicit rules that incubated the emergent solidarity. The meaning of certain humorous episodes was equivocal, but the act of laughing together glossed over the equivocality so that the sense of community was reaffirmed. Further, social identity dynamics appeared to strongly affect perceptions of the appropriateness of humor. The authors conclude that shared putdown humor and the implicit set of rules regarding its use may facilitate solidarity, and they attempt to reconcile why 'inclusionary putdowns' were found here when 'exclusionary putdowns' are usually reported in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-88
Number of pages34
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 19 2002


  • Putdown humor
  • Social identity
  • Temporary group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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