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February 04, 2013

What Your Sense of Humor Says About You

Interesting study suggests why a sense of humor is one of the most highly rated attributes in a prospective romantic partner:

According to Rutgers evolutionary biologist Robert Lynch, when such a characteristic is so highly sought after, "That tends to be a hallmark of an evolutionary trait."

Lynch theorized that humor may be pivotal in some way to human reproductive success and mate selection. To delve deeper, he conducted a number of studies. In one, individual subjects were placed in a room where they watched clips of HBO comedian Bill Burr, whose politically-incorrect brand of comedy is quite divisive: people often love it or hate it. While in the room, the individuals' reactions to Burr's jokes were filmed and recorded. After viewing the clips, subjects took an implicit preference test, which requires takers to rapidly categorize two target concepts with an attribute in order to determine inherent biases or attitudes.

Lynch found that "participants laughed more in response to jokes that matched their implicit preferences." For example, people who associated men and women with stereotypical gender roles laughed much more at Burr's jokes about women.

Genuine laughter arises subconsciously, so it's notoriously hard to fake. This fact, combined with Lynch's findings, suggests that sense of humor is an excellent indicator of a person's true personality. Thus, it would make sense for relationship-seekers to require a compatible sense of humor.

"I can lie about what I like, but when I laugh, I identify my real preferences," Lynch told PBS' Nova. "That would account for why [sense of humor] is so important in mate selection."

That's a bit worrisome. The blog princess has a warped sense of humor.

Maybe that's OK, so long as it's shared.

Posted by Cassandra at February 4, 2013 06:08 AM

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Comments

Warped?
Sure, let's just go with that.
heh
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at February 4, 2013 01:28 PM

I can't decide if this is more or less profound than it sounds. Based on this research it seems what people really want in a prospective romantic partner is not someone with a good sense of humor but rather someone with the same sense of humor.

That observation seems less profound because I think people want romantic partners who generally see the world the same way. There's nothing special about humor in that regard and so it is - as the researcher implies - simply a test for whether someone sees the world the way I do.

It seems more profound because it opens up the question of whether we can perceive as "good" a sense of humor which doesn't match our own.

All of which is a pretty serious comment for a lighthearted post. Probably means my sense of humor needs work. :+)

Posted by: Elise at February 4, 2013 06:07 PM

Based on this research it seems what people really want in a prospective romantic partner is not someone with a good sense of humor but rather someone with the same sense of humor.

That's the way I took it - that if you laugh at the same kinds of things, you probably share mostly the same values. And laughter is harder to fake - as I recall, young men will often pretend to be whatever they think girls want, but when we laugh we let down our guard a bit.

It seems more profound because it opens up the question of whether we can perceive as "good" a sense of humor which doesn't match our own....All of which is a pretty serious comment for a lighthearted post. Probably means my sense of humor needs work. :+)

It's funny, but I can remember being turned off a time or twelve by a boy laughing at something I thought was particularly gross or cruel. It was a gut reaction, but it was pretty powerful.

I laugh more at subtle verbal humor (puns and double entendre). My esteemed spousal unit laughs more at physical humor (pratfalls and the like). But overall, we do tend to laugh at the same themes, however expressed.

At any rate, I find most things funny on at least some level :p

Posted by: Cass at February 4, 2013 06:20 PM

Except, perhaps, meanness. Real cruelty leaves me absolutely cold.

I can poke fun at my own hostile thoughts about other people (especially when they're unworthy ones) and also at the completely understandable urge to choke the living you-know-what out of certain people :p

But that's really more self deprecation than cruelty. I would never actually do those things - I just find it amusing that I think such awful things about other people sometimes. It doesn't quite fit the way I like to think of myself, and that amuses me.

Posted by: Cass at February 4, 2013 06:23 PM

It seems more profound because it opens up the question of whether we can perceive as "good" a sense of humor which doesn't match our own...

Try assuming it is good, and asking what about it makes it good. The payoff is that it will open a field of vision that is authentically human, but which has been closed to you.

Of course, you may not like what you see. But you will understand more than you did.

Posted by: Grim at February 4, 2013 06:45 PM

Male character in a book: Women don't know what they're missing by not watching The Three Stooges.

Female character responds: Yes we do. We miss it on purpose.

More seriously:

Of course, you may not like what you see. But you will understand more than you did.

Yes, I found this (or perhaps the flip side of this) when I sent a very good friend something I thought was very funny. He didn't find it funny at all and his reasons have stuck in my mind for a few years now.

Posted by: Elise at February 4, 2013 07:34 PM

I've long had a theory that one of the things that tickles our funnybones is anything that evokes fear or pain.

I don't find the 3 Stooges particularly funny, but then being female, I don't have to worry about being hit by men. But men do. That may be one reason they laugh and I don't. Men are also known to laugh at videos of other guys being hit or kicked in the testicles.

I just cringe - I can hardly bear to watch. But I imagine there's some value in being able to laugh off something threatening or troubling.

Posted by: Cass at February 5, 2013 07:56 AM

Men are also known to laugh at videos of other guys being hit or kicked in the testicles.

It depends. When put in a "Funniest Home Videos" context, men laugh. It's more of a "been there, done that... you poor bastard." When in the context of a baseball player who 'takes a line drive up the middle', generally there's no laughter but a collective "OOOHH!" and sympathy clutching from the men (as we've all got similar experiences and know that pain). And if it's in the context of a 'Gurl Power' movie (think Thelma and Louise) where the women in the audience cheer, the guys may mumble about it not being funny.

Watch in all three situations, I betcha I'm right.

Posted by: MikeD at February 5, 2013 09:11 AM

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