Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I generally spend about 90 minutes each week writing a column. It is usually 470 words, give or take a few. This won’t be one of those weeks where I spend 90 minutes. 15 minutes is all I have. I’m at home finishing my dissertation this week. I usually share something that has to do with vision, something that is lighthearted, or something that encourages or inspires. I hope and pray that you get something out of these little messages.

This week I’m sharing the seven major findings of my dissertation and research project (my mind is unable to come up with anything else). The paper and project are on the use of humor in public speaking and its relationship to affective learning. Here are a few of the terms:

Ethos – The perceived character, compassion, and credibility of the speaker.
Affective learning - The listener's eagerness to learn and utilize the material and competencies beyond the learning environment.

  1. The speaker’s effective use of sacred humor is useful in building an ethos with the listeners.
  2. The speaker’s perceived ethos is an important tool in building a relationship with the listeners.
  3. The speaker’s effective use of sacred humor is useful in building a relationship with the listeners.
  4. The speaker’s relationship with the congregation is an important predictor of affective learning.
  5. The humor orientation of the listener has no impact on the speaker’s perceived humor orientation, the speaker’s perceived ethos, interpersonal solidarity between the speaker and the listener, and the affective learning of the listener.
  6. Of the three constructs used in this project—perceived humor orientation, perceived ethos, and relational solidarity—ethos is the best predictor of affective learning.
  7. A sense of humor is considered to be a socially desirable trait.
The most important thing I discovered is the importance of ethos. In the congregations I surveyed, we asked about the speaker’s intelligence, delivery style, use of humor, use of media, how the speaker relates to the listeners, and ethos. Ethos was hands down the most important predictor of affective learning. (Humor and how the speaker relates to the listener were tied for second place.)

I wrote about ethos: Ethos is how the listener perceives the character of the speaker and how this perception affects the receptivity to the speaker’s message. Ethos is rhetoric's appeal based on character – as opposed to content (logos) or delivery (pathos). The numbers conclude that speaking, teaching, and preaching cannot be separated from the public, personal, and professional life of the speaker. This paper on humor has proven the old axiom is true: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In Christ,


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