Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




In the past ten years, since the revision of the Repression- Sensitization Scale (Byrne, Barry and Nelson, 1963) a growing number of investigators have attempted to relate the R-S scale to an approach- avoidance continuum of defensive behavior. The few studies that have used sexual stimuli to produce a threat response have not obtained very consistent results. The present study has focused on the relationship between the R-S scale and the humor rating of cartoons. Through the use of Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability scores, repressors were differentiated into defensive and nondefensive.

The independent variable involved the presentation of two types of cartoons: sexual and nonsexual.

The two dependent variables were: the proportion of sexual versus nonsexual cartoons that each subject chose to view, and the humor rating of these cartoons. The experimental design was a 3 x 2 x 2 factorial with three levels of R-S (sensitizers, nondefensive repressors and defensive repressors), two levels of sex (male and female) and two types of stimuli.

Sixty subjects were instructed to rate the degree of humor in each of a series of 40 cartoons. Subjects controlled the presentation of cartoons on a screen by pressing one of two levers. After 40 cartoons were viewed and rated, a post experiment questionnaire was administered.

Analysis of variance revealed a significant main effect, and a significant second order interaction. Emphasis was placed on the higher order finding.

Consistent with the hypothesis female defensive repressors gave significantly lower humor ratings for sexual cartoons than nonsexual cartoons. The hypothesis that sensitizers should give significantly higher humor ratings for sexual cartoons than nonsexual cartoons was not supported. None of the data for males showed significant differences. The sex differences had not been anticipated.

The rating of humor in sexual and nonsexual cartoons by female subjects was interpreted to correspond to an approach-avoidance model. The M-C SD scale was not found useful in differentiating types of R-S scorers in the present study.

Since subjects chose different proportions of sexual cartoons, the two subjects in each category who viewed the fewest sexual cartoons were eliminated for a second analysis of variance. Results were essentially the same, except that internal comparisons revealed no significant differences in humor ratings for sexual and nonsexual cartoons. This later finding was interpreted to mean that female defensive repressors expressed their dislike for sexual cartoons by choosing to view fewer of them as well as rating them lower than nonsexual cartoons. An analysis of the proportion of sexual cartoons viewed revealed no significant mean differences between subject categories.