John Meyer


Communication Studies

118 College Dr. #5131

Hattiesburg, MS  39406


New Book:

Understanding Humor through Communication:

Why Be Funny, Anyway?


John C. Meyer

From Lexington Books

(Use Code LEX30AUTH15 for a discount)

(click the cover for more details)



1.      Communication and Theories of Humor Origin

2.      Functions of Humor in Communication

3.      A Model of Individual Humor Choice

4.      Humor and Persuasion

5.      Humor in Organizations and Cultures

6.      Humor in Personal Relationships

7.      Dangers of Humor for Relationships

8.      A Social Model of Humor

(Use Code LEX30AUTH15 for a discount)





This book pulls together teaching and research on humor in communication over the past 30 years, exploring theories of humor origin as well as humor functions in human groups through communication. A model of humor decision by individuals is detailed, followed by humor’s functions in communication. Elements of humor sources (incongruity, superiority, and relief), humor intent (comic or tragic perspectives), and humor perception (ego-involvement, script awareness, bona-fide messages, and non-bona-fide messages) are incorporated. Persuasive, organizational, and interpersonal settings involving humor are explored in depth to consider its specific functions. The individual choice to experience humor is detailed in its effects, as are the social implications of widespread humor desired and invoked in human society.




    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

World Vision

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, I have attached my vita to this page where I list 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 in the Service part of the vita 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!)


Professional Service:

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 -  .

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


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 10/27/2015.                                   (Back to the top of the page)