O efeito Woody Allen: como o humor pode ajudar em situações ruins

, por Alexandre Matias

“The key is to not think of death as an end, but as more of a very effective way to cut down on your expenses”– Woody Allen

You may not want Woody Allen to have your life in his hands, but in terms of watching his own psychological health, the comedian has it right. Two new studies from the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory demonstrate that, in the face of stressful imagery, comedy is a more effective coping strategy than solemnity – and positive, optimistic humor is more effective than cynicism.

In a standard emotion-regulation study, researchers show subjects a series of images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) – a database of photographs that have been categorized by their emotional content. After viewing negative imagery ranging from car accidents and corpses to aggressive animals and dental exams, the subject rates the intensity of positive and negative emotions.

Tweaking this format in a paper published last week in Cognition & Emotion, Stanford postdoc Andrea Samson and psychology Professor James Gross asked subjects to improvise jokes – either positive or negative – reinterpreting the photos before reporting their emotions. The researchers found that subjects who made any kind of quip benefited, reporting both increases in positive emotions and decreases in negative emotions. But those who were instructed to use positive humor saw the most effect.

“If you are able to teach people to be more playful, to look at the absurdities of life as humorous, you see some increase in wellbeing,” said Samson.

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