Greatbatch & Clark - Discourse Functions of Humour

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

David Greatbatch and Timothy Clark analysed the discourse of management gurus giving public presentations to determine the role that humorous junctures and audience laughter played in developing or demonstrating group solidarity and rhetorical relationships with the speaker. In their review of empirical studies on the discursive production of laughter, they identify five primary functions of humour in communications. One function would be general for all styles, the four others set up a concern structure (Greatbatch & Clark, 2003). They are listed below in PAEI order

P – Competing: Attack others in socially acceptable ways and/or enhance self-esteem at others’ expense.
A – Distancing: Manage embarrassment, fear or stress in threatening situations.
E – Grandstanding: Claim centre of attention in ways that earn the approval of others and enhance social status.
I – Bonding: Create and maintain social cohesion and group solidarity.

The fifth function, “Dissenting: Expressing opposition, resistance and dissent” would be a tactic used in every style to protect style-based priorities, reducing other style strategies to apparent absurdity when measured against preferred strategic values.

1. Greatbatch, D., & Clark, T. (2003). “Displaying group cohesiveness: Humour and laughter in the public lectures of management gurus.” Human Relations, 56(12), 1515-1544.
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