Psychology of humor

I recently read about a meta-analysis of studies that examined whether men or women are funnier. The studies provided participants with a cartoon or something similar. The participants then were to write a funny caption. You can see a challenge like this in every issue of New Yorker magazine. 

Later, judges rated how funny the captions of the research participants were, without knowing whether they came from a man or a woman. Can you guess the results? 

The captions of men were judged funnier. The authors of the meta-analysis try to explain why men are funnier, suggesting that men may be funnier because women really like men who are amusing.

I have my own interpretation of the results based on this saying: There is no death like that of a stand-up comedian who tells an unfunny joke. I think that men as a group are more willing to risk social death when trying to be funny and therefore get more practice at the skill.

To test my hypothesis, I issued a challenge to members of my Mind Matters Facebook group: Write a joke and post it on our page. Then we can see which sex is funnier among us.

A member prodded me to go first. So I did. I stopped working and wrote the first joke of my life. I posted it on the group page. The silence was complete. I thought my joke was amusing. No one else did. 

I am the only one who posted an original joke. Me, a man. So I declared men the winning sex. Also, I considered my hypothesis supported: Men are more willing to suffer a social death. 

I know that you are dying to read my joke. You are sure it won’t be funny. Here it is:  A psychologist and a psychopath walk into a pub together. The psychopath says: ‘I hope you’re paying — I don’t have a dollar to my name.” The psychologist says: “Me neither. I looked at my bank account today, and all I saw was a big fat 0. Can you steal us drinks?” The psychopath responds: “Steal drinks?  You’re the worst psychologist I ever had. And the dumbest — 12345 as a bank password? I’m buying.”

If you think you, man or woman, can write a better joke, go ahead. Tell it to everyone. But brace yourself in case THE WORLD DOES NOT GET YOU. 


[Photo by Jason Edwards on Unsplash]

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