Brian Mistler, a psychologist and coordinator of research and technology for the HWS Center for Counseling and Student Wellness, offered a lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, N.Y., as part of their Spring Cultural series. In his lecture, “The Psychology of Humor and Second Order Change,” Mistler discussed ways in which he utilizes humor to get across important concepts in the classroom, therapy-room and in his research. At the University of Florida, where Mistler earned his Ph.D. in psychology, he designed and taught the university’s first course on the psychology of humor. His studies in humor have focused on aspects such as how humor supports change.
Mistler has also trained at “The Gesundheit! Institute” with Dr. Hunter Campbell “Patch” Adams, the inspiration for the hit movie starring Robin Williams. Mistler sees the importance in advocating for humor in our health care system. Dr. Adams was a champion for utilizing humor in patient care and Mistler has found that “studying humor and tolerance for ambiguity tell us how people use humor to deal differently with ambiguous data, which means humor does play a role in processing information subject to multiple interpretations.”
He has also found that humor is useful for serious purposes, such as therapy, spiritual growth and conflict resolution. Second-order humor, which was one of the primary focuses of his lecture at Mohawk Valley, is important in our current society, and is humor which can be used to help transcend current paradigms and allow understanding across cultural and ethical borders, he says.