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The use of humor may affect how bystanders respond to slurs. Undergraduates (N = 192) completed a measure of prejudice towards people with intellectual disabilities and were randomly assigned to read a scenario in which a peer uses a slur either as part of a joke (humor condition) or a statement (control condition). Participants responded to measures of intent to assertively respond and their evaluation of the speaker. Humor inhibited intent to nonverbally disagree and to verbally confront. Bystanders’ own prejudicial attitudes moderated the effects of humor on intent to verbally confront and negative evaluation. In the humor condition, compared to those with lower prejudice, those with higher prejudice showed less intent to confront and less negative evaluations. In the control condition, intent to confront, and negative evaluation were high, regardless of prejudice. These results suggest that humor inhibits assertive responses to slurs, particularly among people without highly favorable attitudes about the targeted social group.

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