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Moral Boundaries of Humor

Madelijn Strick

Comedy is surrounded by discussions about free speech, morality and political correctness. Some people complain that they ‘cannot say anything anymore’ because the ‘humor police’ will come after them. Others embrace the increasing sensitivity to social issues in humor as a symbol of civilization. How do we judge what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in humor? When does a joke cross a line? Why do some people laugh about sexist and racist jokes, while others find them appalling? Does offensive humor also have positive effects? Madelijn Strick discusses the psychological processes involved, and how they may explain the stubborn disagreements about the morality of humor.

Madelijn Strick is a social psychologist at Utrecht University. She obtained her PhD in 2009 on humor in advertising, and continued to study the social influence of humor ever since. 

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