John Meyer


Communication Studies

118 College Dr. #5131

Hattiesburg, MS  39406


Forthcoming next year: 

Understanding Humor in Contexts: A Model of Humor for Communicators


John C. Meyer

From Lexington Books

Planned Chapters:

1.      An Introduction

2.      Humor as Life Pattern Disruption

3.      Humor and Uncertainty Reduction

4.      Theories of Humor Origin

5.      Humor Uniting and Dividing

6.      Functions of Humor in Communication

7.      Humor and Persuasion

8.      Humor in Organizations

9.      Individual Humor Characteristics

10.  Humor and Personal Relationships

11.  Negative Effects of Humor on Relationships

12.  A Model of Humor

13.  The “Black Box”—How We Decide What is Funny

14.  Humor as a Social Event


    Thanks for the website visit!

I keep busy at the
University of Southern Mississippi                          How about a full
in Hattiesburg, MS with:                                                 VITA?


                                                         Some information about my

and SERVICE.                          EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND.            


Here are links to some of my favorite sites for experiencing "the World on the Web."


The Weather Channel Maps


World Time Zones


World Radio Stations

Unisys Satellite View

About Time

The Hunger Site

Project Vote Smart

USA Today


With my son Matthew.

Children and Communication:  Research from Communicating with Kids . . .


Kids Talking incorporates insights and conclusions
from 10 years of work with children.

Though we were all children ourselves, once, many adults have much uncertainty over how to communicate with them.  Openness and creativity help to communicate with children.  It is fun to see the world as exciting, new, and different, the way a child does.

Following are key chapter topics:

  • Repeated Interaction Patterns
  • Managing Changing Relationships
  • Are We Friends? Children's Statements, Proximity, and Touch
  • Revealing Culture: Invoking the Rules 
  • Discipline Dogma
  • Power and the Use of Control
  • Uncertain Relationships: Power Differences and Seeking Adult Support
  • Children Expressing and Controlling Feelings: Tragedy or Comedy?
  • Initiating Roles and Play: Growing Relationships Along the Way
  • Children's Strategies for Expressing and Receiving Affection
  • Children in Conflict
  • Adults in Conflict: Research Pitfalls
  • The Emotional Impact of Working with Children
  • Findings and Implications: Child Interactions and Child-Care Cultures

Click the book image for ordering info!


    Through my years of exploring human communication, I have been interested in how people persuade others to give them support, how members of organizations communicate to accomplish common goals, and how humor serves to unify and divide people in all types of messages.

    I spent several years observing and interacting with children and staff at a local Child Development Center.   It has been fascinating to see how children learn to manage relationships in one of their first organizations outside of the family.
    Here are five key guiding principles that should guide our communication with small children (they often need adult help to do these; but adults must model these communication styles also):
1.  Expressions of feeling are important in all settings.  It is important to express emotions in a controlled way, to constructively express emotions and desires through words, and acknowledge that others have feelings, too!
2.  Understanding and following rules is important for maintaining order.  Children need a sense of order in their lives, and their communication is no exception.  It is important to take turns so all who want to can talk or play.  One must also learn to balance sharing with respecting others' property.
3.  Relationship building is central to developing a supportive communication climate.  Simply spending time with a child communicates an important sense of support and relationship.  We should make every effort to praise their effort and accomplishment.  Too often, children are only "corrected" or "scolded" without the balancing praise.
4.  Giving good reasons helps influence others.  Simply screaming, yelling, or commanding messages are not welcomed by children or adults.  Giving reasons for requests and trying several different messages if the first does not work are helpful strategies.
5.  Everybody must learn to constructively deal with conflicts.  Sometimes, people just want to be by themselves.  Other times, we can move to a new area or topic so as to not draw out a conflict.  Finally, facing conflicts by talking them out can save the relationship later.  Current anger does not have to end a friendship, and for children it almost never does.
    These guidelines and examples are presented in:

    Meyer, J., & Driskill, G. (2000).  Helping tots talk to tots.  In W. I. Gorden & C. G. Waugh (Eds.), Let's Talk:  A Cognitive Skills Approach to Interpersonal Communication (pp. 390-394).  Dubuque, IA:  Kendall-Hunt.

    The following are the ten basic communication strategies children use for managing their relationships:
1.  A Statement About Friendship.  Clear statements were made about whether or not the communicators were friends.
2.  Proximity or Closeness.  Sitting next to or playing near another person indicated liking; staying away from that person indicated uncertainty or dislike.
3.  Touching or Hugging.  Physical contact usually indicated strong liking or affection, except hitting or kicking, of course, which indicated the opposite.
4.  ListeningThis involved telling others about something that had happened, and having the other party stay and listen.
5.  Expression of Feelings.  By yelling, calling names, pouting, or saying some variant of "I love you" or "I hate you," children would simply give voice to their feelings.  This category included all simple verbalizations or exclamations indicating an emotion.
6.  Engaging in ConflictWhether confronting another child over a desired toy, or attempting to manage a problem to please both parties, children would regularly engage in conflict.
7.  Joking or TeasingHaving the effect of symbolically separating one child or group from another, or showing that a relationship was going well, use of humor was a common strategy.
8.  Playing or Taking Roles with one another.  Often interactions began with a simple assignment of roles for a game, or relationships were established as children simply inserted themselves in a game role for a time.
9.  Use of Control.  People liked to be given power or consent to the enactment of power by others, to maintain a sense of order.
10.  Appeal to RulesOne or both parties would claim that rules for behavior determined what should be done, or, alternatively, point out that they had been violated.
        More details of the study which brought out the above may be found in:

    Meyer, J., & Driskill, G. (1997).  Children and relationship development:  Communication strategies in a day care center.  Communication Reports, 10, 75-85.

Humor has also been a research focus, most notably in:

    Meyer, J. (2000).  Humor as a double-edged sword:  Four functions of humor in communication.  Communication Theory, 10 (3), 310-331.

Three theories of humor creation emerge in humor research:  the relief theory, which focuses on releasing tension; the incongruity theory, singling out violations of a learned pattern; and the superiority theory, involving a sense of victory or triumph.  Because each theory tries to explain all instances of humor, differing communication effects of humor remain unexplained.  Humor's enactment leads to four basic functions of humor in communication.  Two tend to unite communicators through identification and clarification.  The other two tend to divide one set of communicators from others by the enforcement and differentiation functions.  Humor can serve to unify and divide audiences, and lay out social boundaries.

    Meyer, J. (1997).  Humor in member narratives:  Uniting and dividing at work.  Western Journal of Communication, 61, 188-208.


By providing a less threatening means of acknowledging disagreement, humor served to promote unity among organizational members by reinforcing shared values and establishing the social order within the organization in the face of incongruous or conflicting values.  Through enabling members to shift between unifying and differentiating narratives, humor allowed organization members to maintain unity in the face of diversity.                            



My Organizational Communication class at Mugshots for burgers, December 7, 2010 (I am back there in the shadow).

Students Solitah Brookshire, Lacey Myers, Jessica Nester, Heather Evans, Jessica Arender, Erin Gibson, Taylor Risk, Nicole Waaga, Ben Baker, and Zach Carr joined me.


I have taught the following courses in the Department of Communication Studies here at the University of Southern Mississippi:


Seminar on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
Seminar on Humor and Communication Research 
Seminar on Organizational Communication Cultures
Problems in Organizational Communication


Capstone Experience
Seminar on Humor in Communication
Seminar on Communication and Organizational Culture
Communication and Conflict Resolution
Organizational Communication II
Organizational Communication I
Small Group Communication
Business and Professional Speaking
Prospectus Writing
Interpersonal Communication
Oral Communication

UNV 101 University Success Skills (First Year/Transfer Orientation)

Back at the University of Kansas, I taught the following as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of Communication Studies:

        COMS 331   Persuasive Speaking
        COMS 310   Introduction to Organizational Communication
        COMS 150   Personal Communication
        COMS 130   Fundamentals of Speech

by John C. Meyer

    Teaching should not involve simply the transfer of knowledge, but a creation and stimulation of the ability to think.  Thus, teaching is far more than lecturing in a classroom.
    Teaching should be a learning experience for the instructor as well as for the students.  No one can know all there is to know about a subject, or have thought all there is to be thought about it.  In describing new material to students, some aspects or implications of it are new to the instructor as well.  If this is not happening, the teacher is not thinking about the material, and therefore can hardly expect to motivate students to do so.
    For true interest in the material to be generated, interaction between teacher and student must form at least a part of the experience.  Otherwise, a teacher may simply return time and again to say what needs to be said to each class, rather than trying to communicate with students.  Students, in turn, may take notes on or read the material, yet gain nothing from it in their lives.  To prevent this, a stimulation of interaction can also stimulate thought in both parties.
    This is not to say that polished, organized, well-delivered lectures are not desirable.  But all aspects of the communication loop, including speaker, message, receivers and their feedback, should be complete.  Teaching is in itself effective communication.
    When giving assignments and setting standards, one should be as clear and specific as possible about expectations.  What ambiguity remains should be left to the creativity of students.  It is not effective teaching to expect students to "mind-read" and produce a product exactly as the teacher desires, unless a teacher has specifically set forth the basic guidelines to follow.  Generally, assignments with no ambiguity, allowing little chance for creativity and thought, are less effective in teaching.
    Assignments turned in should be graded and returned as soon as possible.  Just as anyone wants a response to messages sent out, students want a response to theirs.  The feedback should be clear about the grade, reasons for it and suggestions for improvement.  After all, a grade should not be desired in itself, but as an indicator to show what was done effectively and to show what can be done better.
    Teaching and learning should both be fun.  But both are also hard work.  Neither should be absent from the experience.  If there is no pain and all happiness, nothing new may be learned or taught.  Concurrently, if there is no reward or exhilaration in learning, one may wonder "what is the purpose?" and give up entirely.  A teacher's eternal challenge is to balance these two competing elements of learning to make students and teachers both better persons in the end.



    I view service as more than being a member of an organization or committee one can then list on a resume.  Service is being in communicative relationships with other people, and influencing their lives in some way (one hopes, positively!) and letting them influence my own.   Still, when it comes to a printed page, whether on paper or electronic, these experiences distill down in limited time and space to lines on a page.  So, here I present my activities and service through the years as lines on a Webpage.  (Notice I purposely left this until the end as more boring stuff.  Still, some of the entries below have been hugely important to me in my life; others less so.  Perhaps the reader still with me at this point will be inspired in some way, or at least find some interesting links!)

Professional Service

Southern States Communication Association:

President, 2013 - 2014

Vice President, 2012 - 2013

President-Elect, 2011 - 2012
            Chair, Publications Committee, 2010 – 2011

Editor, Southern Communication Journal, 2006 -  2008
            Editor-Elect, Southern Communication Journal, 2004 - 2005

SSCA representative to the 2000 National Communication Association Nominating Committee.

Chair, Applied Communication Division, April 1999 - April 2000; April 2005 - April 2006.

Vice-Chair, Applied Communication Division, April 1998 - April 1999; April 2004 - April 2005. 

Planned programs for the 1999 Annual Convention, St. Louis, MO; 2005 Annual Convention, Baton Rouge, LA. 

Program Planner, Bostrom Young Scholars Competition, San Antonio, TX, April 4, 1998.
Secretary, Applied Communication Division, April 1995 - April 1997.
            Bylaws Committee, Applied Communication Division, April 1992 - April 1993. 

I was honored to be elected to succeed to the presidency of the Southern States Communication Association after planning the Louisville, KY convention in 2013. 

Some background about me: After receiving the Ph.D. (University of Kansas, 1991) I moved South to the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, where I am now a Professor of Communication Studies teaching courses in organizational communication, conflict management, and humor in communication, along with business and professional speaking and small group communication. Current research involves developing a model of humor in human communication, building on years of research in that topic as well as in children’s communication in organizations. 

My experience with the Southern States Communication Association began with my first trip to that wonderful convention city, San Antonio.  From the start, I found SSCA to be a welcoming place.  Ever since, I have experienced SSCA to be a group that not only welcomes scholars but gives supportive yet useful critiques to them, and I have continued to find unequaled opportunities for networking and professional friendships there.  

Activity in the Communication Theory and Applied Communication Divisions began my service to SSCA.  I chaired the Applied Communication Division, planning its programs for St. Louis in 1999 and Baton Rouge in 2005.  I also planned the Bostrom Young Scholar panels for another San Antonio convention in 1998.  In 2000, I was elected as SSCA’s representative to the NCA Nominating Committee.  The greatest SSCA project for me began in 2004, as I became Editor-Elect of the Southern Communication Journal.  Editing the journal (2006-2008) was most rewarding, as I gained exposure to multiple and varied research in the field, with the opportunity to provide supportive critique to all and bring a select few forward for public presentation in print.  More recently I served as chair of the SSCA Publications Committee.

Community Service:

Volunteer, Pine Belt Family Y Youth Programs, Hattiesburg, MS (after-school program for children), January 2008 -  .

Volunteer, Peer Group Facilitator, Family Network Partnership, Hattiesburg, MS
                        (after-school program for teenagers and children), August, 2004 – May 2006; August 2007 – December 2007.

Classroom Volunteer, Lawrence Community Children's Center (Head Start Program), September 1988 - May 1991.

Graduate School Service:

Director of Graduate Studies, Communication Studies Department, July 2008 - 
Ph.D. Committees Directed:                                                   M. A. Committees Directed:
            Paul Stafford (2013)                                                               Patty Malone (2000)
            Leslie Rodriguez (2012)                                                        
            Jennifer L. McLaughlin (2012)
            Rebecca Woodrick (2009)                                                     
            Jane Ann Mattina (2008)
            George Pacheco, Jr. (2008)
            Raymond Kyle Jones (2008)
            Matthew Ramsey (2007)
            Heather Grace Stark (2006)                                                   
            Misty Knight (2005)  
            William Cole Franklin (2004)
            Noi Thitirat Phukanchana (2004)                                           
            Sylvia Goldman (2003)
            Doran O’Donnell (2003)
            Stephanie Thomson (2003)

Chair, Graduate Studies Committee, Department of Communication Studies, August 2007 -
Chair, Graduate Studies Committee, USM School of Communication, May 1992 - May 1996. 

University Service:

Classroom Volunteer, USM Center for Child Development, August 1992 -

University of Southern Mississippi Textbook Coordinator, 2010 - 2012.

Faculty Excellence in Service Award, College of Arts and Letters, 2007.

Elected College of Liberal Arts/College of Arts and Letters Representative to USM Faculty Senate, June 2000 – June 2004; October 2004 – June 2010.
                        Secretary, June 2009 – June 2010.
                        Secretary-Elect, June 2008 – June 2009.
                                    Chair, Faculty Welfare Committee, August 2001 - June 2004.

Policies and Procedures Committee Member, Department of Communication Studies/Speech
Communication, August 2006 -  May 2007; August 2008 – May 2012.           

General Studies Advisor, USM College of Arts and Letters/Liberal Arts, June
 1995 – June 2009.

Summer Reading Program Facilitator, August 2002 – August 2006.

Chair, Theater and Dance Department Chair Search Committee, 2005 – 2006.

University Mediation Advisory Board member, Fall 2002 - Spring 2006.

Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service to Students with Disabilities, July, 2005

College Governance Document Committee, USM College of Arts and Letters, Fall 2003.

Dean's Search Committee, USM College of Arts and Letters, Spring 2003.

“Professor of the Year,” 2000, USM Student Communication Association.

Chair, University Research Council, 2000 - 2001.
            Liberal Arts College Representative to the University Research Council, 1998 –
Chaired Liberal Arts College and University Summer Research Grant Selection Committees, 1998, 1999.
Elected alternate representative to the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council, 1999-2001.

Member, College Council, USM College of Liberal Arts, September, 1994 - September, 1996. 


Education and Work Background

Ph. D., 1991, University of Kansas, Lawrence.     (Communication Studies)
    Dissertation:  Values and Narratives in Organizational Messages.

M. A., 1988, University of Kansas, Lawrence.      (Communication Studies)
    Thesis:  Ronald Reagan and Humor:  Three Theoretical Approaches to a Politician and
        His Velvet Weapon.

B. S., 1986, Phillips University, Enid, Oklahoma.     (Major:  Mass Communication)
    Coursework included writing for newspaper publication and radio broadcast and assisting in
        the filming of an educational documentary.

High School:  Bear Creek High School, Lakewood, Colorado, 1978-1982.

Work Experience:
PROFESSOR, Communication Studies Department, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, 8/2002 -

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, Speech Communication Department, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS
    8/1996 - 8/2002
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, Speech Communication Department, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS
    8/1991 - 8/1996
GRADUATE TEACHING ASSISTANT, Communication Studies Department, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
    8/1986 - 5/1991
GRADUATE ASSISTANT TO THE DIRECTOR OF GRADUATE STUDIES, Communication Studies Department, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
    9/1988 - 5/1990
CASHIER, Golden Foods, Lakewood, CO
    5/1983 - 8/1983; 5/1986 - 8/1986
    10/1985 - 3/1986
OFFICE ASSISTANT, Gary-Williams Oil Producer, Denver, CO
    5/1985 - 8/1985; 12/1985
ASSISTANT EDITOR, Phillips University Haymaker, Enid, OK
    1/1984 - 5/1984; 8/1984 - 12/1984
    5/1984 - 8/1984
RECEIVING WORKER, Montgomery Ward, Lakewood, CO
    5/1984 - 8/1984
OFFICE TRAINEE, Amoco Production Company, Denver, CO
    6/1982 - 8/1982

This page maintained by John C. Meyer at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Last updated 9/12/2014.                                   (Back to the top of the page)