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Q: Get a sense of humor! How could jokes possibly affect the way people think about nursing?

just jokingA: Jokes do affect how we see the world. And few people would accept "just joking" as an excuse for stereotyping of other disempowered groups.

Even humor and fantasy images affect people, as explained in chapter 2 of our book Saving Lives, which discussed the many research studies showing that television dramas and sitcoms affect views and actions about health issues.

In fact, a study by researchers at the University of Granada (Spain), published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence in 2010, found that men who had listened to a series of "sexist jokes" later displayed more tolerance for violence against women than those who had not listened to the jokes.[1]

In a related vein, psychologist and anthropologist Gil Greengross explains the "normative window theory of prejudice" proposed by Chris Crandall and colleagues: When the prejudice against a given group is shifting in society, and you hold negative views about a group, "hearing disparaging jokes about them releases inhibitions you might have, and you feel it's ok to discriminate against them."[2]

And under Thomas Ford & Mark Ferguson's "prejudiced norm theory,"[3] which Tendayi Viki and colleagues have evaluated favorably,[4] delivering prejudice in a joke (disparagement humor) discourages criticism of the discriminatory message, encouraging the receiver to accept that message as the norm. Repeated joke exposures create a greater tolerance of future discriminatory events in those who are already prejudiced. Ford asserts that "the acceptance of sexist humor leads men to believe that sexist behavior falls within the bounds of social acceptability."[5]

Indeed, Ford and colleagues at Western Carolina University published a 2008 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggesting that exposure to sexist humor also decreased the amount of money sexist men were willing to give to a women's organization.[6]

It's not hard to relate that finding to the low funding nursing receives compared to medicine.[7]



[1] Mónica Romero-Sánchez et al., "Exposure to Sexist Humor and Rape Proclivity: The Moderator Effect of Aversiveness Ratings," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 25, no. 12 (December 2010): 2339-2350,

[2] Gil Greengross, "Humor Sapiens: The Laughing Ape and Other Insights into the Nature of Funny," Psychology Today (July 18, 2011),

[3] Thomas E. Ford and Mark A. Ferguson, "Social Consequences of Disparagement Humor: A Prejudiced Norm Theory," Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8, no. 1 (2004): 79-94.

[4] G. Tendayi Viki, Manuela Thomae, Amy Cullen, and Hannah Fernandez, "The Effect of Sexist Humor and Type of Rape on Men's Self-Reported Rape Proclivity and Victim Blame," Current Research in Social Psychology 13, no. 10 (2007): 122–132, See the article.

[5] Science Daily, "Sexist Humor No Laughing Matter, Psychologist Says" (November 7, 2007),

[6] Thomas E. Ford, Christie F. Boxer, Jacob Armstrong and Jessica R. Edel, "More than 'Just a Joke': The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 34, no. 2 (February 2008): 159-170,

[7] TAN, "Just How Undervalued and Underfunded is Nursing?" (accessed January 31, 2014),

Last updated July 24, 2014

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