The social functionality of humor in group-based research

Rebecca Hewer*, Katherine Smith, Gillian Fergie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Citizens' juries provide deliberative fora within which members of the public can debate complex policy issues. In this article, we reflect on our experience of undertaking three citizens' juries addressing health inequalities, to explore the positive and facilitative role that humor can play within group-based research focusing on sensitive health policy issues. We demonstrate how both participants and researchers engaged in the production of humor in ways which troubled prevailing power dynamics and facilitated positive relationships. We conclude by recommending that researchers, particularly health policy researchers and those pursuing the kind of lengthy group-based fora associated with deliberative research, consider the positive role humor can play when engaged reflexively. In so doing, we make a major contribution to extant literature on both deliberative fora (which is yet to consider humor's facilitative capacities) and the role of humor in qualitative (health) research (which rarely explores researcher complicity in humor production).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-444
Number of pages14
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number3
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • United Kingdom
  • citizens’ juries
  • deliberative democracy
  • humor
  • power
  • qualitative
  • reflexivity


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