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Is Humor Only Fun, An Alternative Cure or Magic? The Cognitive Therapeutic Potential of Humor

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The paper deals with the therapeutic potential of humor, emphasizing in particular its properties as a tool of cognitive therapy. The variety, commonness and pervasiveness of the claims about the beneficial effects of humor justify the need to examine these effects in view of modern findings. The first part is devoted to reviewing studies describing the contributions of humor to physical well-being, such as reducing pain, decreasing proneness to heart disease and enhancing immunological responses. The effects are positive but weak and may be considered as belonging to the background factors promoting physical health. The second part is devoted to reviewing studies describing the contributions of humor to psychological well-being, mainly its emotional effects, such as reducing tension and aggression or enhancing social feelings, and its cognitive effects, such as mental flexibility, shifting, playfulness, optimism and distancing. The next sections deal with reviewing the presumed clinical effects of humor, focusing on the processes through which it has been claimed to contribute to facilitating individual and group psychotherapy. The clinical effects depend upon integrating humor into the overall therapy. In the last section an attempt is made to present a cognitive model which, by showing how humor coalesces the emotional and cognitive effects, may account for the diverse curative effects of humor.
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Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: 1: Pardessia Medical Mental Health Center 2: Tel Aviv University

Publication date: January 1, 1996

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