Question
Asked 6th Mar, 2012

Does appreciation of humor depend on intelligence?

Nice to see this topic exists. Is humor primarily a function of intelligence? If yes, what form of intelligence (verbal, emtional, numerical, or just general intelligence). And, is all forms of humor depending on intelligence, or only some? Has anyone found that intelligence has an impact on humor appreciation?

Most recent answer

29th Aug, 2021
Olena Taukchi
Ukrainian Engineering Pedagogics Academy
In fact, a number of studies have found an association between humour and intelligence.
Besides, Albert Einstein attributed his brilliant mind to having a good sense of humour.
Austrian researchers arrived at the conclusion that witty people, particularly those who are into dark humour, have higher IQs as compared to their peers. They're positive that it takes both cognitive and emotional ability to process and produce humour. The analysis proves that witty people have higher verbal and non-verbal intelligence, and they score lower in mood disturbance and aggressiveness. Consequently, they are really good to be around.
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All Answers (36)

7th Mar, 2012
José MG Helena
Universidade Atlântica
Despiste a lot of research shows a high correlation between humor and intelligence I consider it depends what we mean by intelligence and what kind of humor we speak... in fact the correlations that have been made refer to the QI and now we know that intelligence is much much more than that...
Willibald thank you for introduce that topic, I'm very glad about that :-)
7th Mar, 2012
Tariq Khan
Central Institute of Indian Languages
It does (depend on intelligence)! This is what Willibald Ruch has also advocated in 'The Sense of Humor.' Still we have instances wherein a person with higher IQ fails to get a joke as quickly as a person rated lesser on IQ test. This doesn't violate the claim. Rather, it hints at the kind of intelligence at play in a given humor. I'd love to vote for IQ having a role to play but in ways more varied than assumed. Thanks to Willibald and Helena.
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8th Mar, 2012
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
Yes, we often come back to the same unanswered questions. Whether humor appreciation and intelligence are related or not can only be answered comprehensively once we have a valid classification of humor. Thus, we need to know what forms of humor exist and and how to measure them properly. The situation is much better in intelligence, but as José Helena points out there were new developments in the past decades that humor research has not yet adopted. In a study (only in german) we only found that appreciation of nonsense goes along with fluid intelligence. Thus, we sepculated that intelligence relates to appreciation of humor structure (not humor content). Whould emotional intelligence also determine humor content? Maybe EI might predict the selection of okes that one would tell in various companies. In any case, in ou studies we find cognitive style (simplicity vs. complexity) be a better predictor of humor than intelligence.
1 Recommendation
9th Mar, 2012
Tariq Khan
Central Institute of Indian Languages
I agree but at the same time I'm tempted to look into the role frequency and priming might be playing in an instance of humor appreciation. That is to say how frequent are the two (conflicting/ competing) meanings involved in the given jokes and could it not be possible that a particular metaphorical or non-metaphorical meaning just encountered play a role in the humor appreciation.
Classification of jokes is something that I'm also thinking about for sometime but finding it a bit difficult as there are social, cultural, psychological and linguistic factors involved in such a way that you can't separate them. In that case what/ who (on what parameters) will decide whether a classification is valid or not? Since there are various disciplines involved, will it be a solution to let the concerning disciplines classify humor for themselves?
I agree with Willibald Ruch that there are socio-cultural factors playing a decisive role in the selection and comprehension of jokes. In fact I feel that the moment an individual encounters a joke s/he (un)consciously decides when and where to reuse it. But a fact that s/he might not use it unless sure of the setting on one hand but would definitely understand the joke in that very settings.
16th Mar, 2012
Osmar Ferreira Oliveira
Webcap Research Ltd.
What may make to cry , may make to laugh...You only laugh when it hurts ( somebody else )...
It is a punctual question of culture, time, weight and place.
Revenge, Violence , just like humor play their aggressiveness through the same way of reduction. The appreciation of such aspects induce to a deviation of aggressive impulses; sometimes it is better consumed as a frozen food.
Read Freud and the meaning of humor.
9th Mar, 2013
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
So what is left to do in research? We do have broader conceptualizations of intelligence now (e.g., Carroll for traditional intelligence, and "hot" intelligence). We ate much more behind in terms of humor; what we need is a classification that is tested across different cultures. Once we have an interment to measure the different types of humor we can answer the question on the relation between intelligence and humor.
19th Mar, 2013
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
Well said, Paola, but are we ready for that? My feeling is people are quite happy with having preliminary solutions and doing shortcuts. What you ask for is a bigger effort in giving a field a solid platform.
19th Mar, 2013
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
I tried that in the 90-ies-- with little success. I think we did not have the critical mass of researchers interested in basic questions at that time. Maybe we are further now but I am not sure. Humor research is more international now though, involving more countries and cultures.
19th Mar, 2013
Joachim Pimiskern
There is a study on humor for identification of brain damage in
alcoholics. It works just like an IQ test. Probands are given the
first part of a short story and have to choose (multiple choice) one
possible continuation which should be as humorous as possible.
Unfortunately only a German article. The title of the study
is:
Uekermann, J.: Theory of mind, humour processing and executive functioning in alcoholism. In: ADDICTION 102(2),
A related method:
Regards,
Joachim
8th Apr, 2013
Emily Wassell
Grey Ocean Analytics
I have a 10 month old son who has a sense of humor. I am amazed by the things that he finds funny. I am curious about the mental development of humor alongside intelligence.
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13th Apr, 2013
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
Can you give examples of what he finds funny? Paul McGhee has a developmental model of humor appreciation where he distinguished among several steps. But you talk about individual difference and not so much general development. Among adults humor appreciation is mostly a matter of cognitive complexity. Cognitively complex like humor that is absurd and nonsensical. They appreciate incongruities that cant be fully resolved or made sense of. Less complex like jokes where the incongruities can be fully resolved. In fact from peoples appreciation of humor you can predict their cognitive style very well.
13th Apr, 2013
Osmar Ferreira Oliveira
Webcap Research Ltd.
If put into such approach, intelligence is something very unreliable and so on " forms" of itelligence . . what can makes laugh, can makes cry: a question of measure, place, time and humor ( general meaning ) and weight. Take a look at the dimensions Freud and Lacan put jokes. It would be beteer to ask what humor may really means.
Just culture and language...Of course language domain allow more complex jokes, although all we see around are trivial ,banal and sometimes grotesque. Even into stand-ups on racial , political and sexual jokes. Is there " a form of humor intelligence" ? If the humor is such easy on prejudices, as the standers do I believe not.
14th Apr, 2013
Emily Wassell
Grey Ocean Analytics
Around 9 months old, my son began doing things, and laughing at his actions. Once he put his finger in my nose and he thought it was hilarious. When my husband or I make sounds for his stuffed bear, he looks at us and laughs. He likes to hold a toy out, as if he is sharing, then when I reach for it, he will move the toy and laugh. This game works both ways, I can move a toy from his reach and he will laugh. I am a happy person, but he finds humor in all kinds of actions. I am intrigued by the brain development of humor- as some of his playmates do not display humor. I am very interested in your research.
14th Apr, 2013
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
Very interesting. You should record this all and make it a topic for a single case study. There is some research now (by Elena Hoika, Gina Mireault) that does look at humor and laughter at that age. We have reviews of what goes on at an older age. I think the genetic predisposition to cheerfulness is indeed a key (with a playful frame of mind and a cheerful disposition people interpret incongruities in a funny way) --we see that it also an antidote to you gelotophobia, the fear of being laughed at.
14th Apr, 2013
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
Osmar: I fully agree that it "would be better to ask what humor may really means". This is exactly where I think research should go first. What is humor for you? (Freud had separate theories for jokes and for humor, which he rightly saw as being very different). Such a study would need to be done world wide; what is the meaning of the term in different countries and what are the terms in a country that are used in to refer to things that make us smile and laugh.
20th Sep, 2013
Aleksander Stańczak
Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine
Emily, maybe that doesn't exactly refer to your child's age, but there was a multi-cultural research by Guo, Zhang, Wang and Xeromeritou about humour of preschool children and it's relation to their cognitive development. It turned out that children's humor appreciation was correlated to the level of development, but in opposite direction among Chinese and Greek children. Therefore, it may mean that your son's tendency to laughing is determined either by his high development level (including intelligence) or by specific culture patterns you transfer to him (or both).
16th Oct, 2013
Ana Campo
Universidad de Valladolid
Probably yes. At least in the verbal, comprehension of metaphors (closely related to the jokes or ironies) requires some intelligence to appreciate the humor.
17th Oct, 2013
Osmar Ferreira Oliveira
Webcap Research Ltd.
If you closely tie metaphors comprehension to intelligence we would have to admit that ignorants that do not domain verbal prosody would not have humor apreciation.
1st Nov, 2013
András Györfi
Spitalul Municipal "DR. Pop Mircea" Marghita
In my oppinion intelligence and humor are related concepts.
Intelligence - though not well defined - depends on using obvious, self-evident and simple features and relations in some new, more complex (but observing occamian limitations) ways to obtain better results.
Humor is also related to the aptitude to look some events from a different perspective: the shift of perspective can demonstrate a hidden fault in a threat, and the cessation of this threat can trigger mirth and laugh.
The concepts, though related, can hold some contradictions also.
There are stupid jokes also: telling such a humorous story don't makes one smarter.
Some intelligent people have a weak sense of humor.
1st Nov, 2013
Osmar Ferreira Oliveira
Webcap Research Ltd.
Do psychopaths have sense of humor? Are they intelligent ?
2nd Nov, 2013
András Györfi
Spitalul Municipal "DR. Pop Mircea" Marghita
Yes, psychopat's psychometric tests often are indicating above-averaged intelligence. At first encounter they can seem agreable persons, making a good impression. But they don't have the sense of humor. Sometimes they may appear witty, but nor psychotics, nor psychopats can not be characterized as having a sense of humor.
2nd Nov, 2013
Osmar Ferreira Oliveira
Webcap Research Ltd.
So, thanks a lot András. This way just choose a god joke and test a intelligent person, may become a valid test and a quick answer for both approaches. I do know that Hitler and Stalin did not appreciate jokes!
2nd Nov, 2013
András Györfi
Spitalul Municipal "DR. Pop Mircea" Marghita
I agree, Osmar.
Hitler and Stalin were psychopats.
Which raise the question how could they reach in such condition to their high social position.
See, if someone would have posed your question concerning the relation between psychopats and the sense of humor, maybe their ascension could have been halted in the early 30-ies.
Conclusion: don't allow to acces in leader's position persons without sense of humor!
Consequence: the U.N has to start immediately a survey between the presidents, prime-ministers, governors and kings of this planet to evaluate their sense of humor. If they fail to react wit a guffaw to an appropiate joke, they'll have to resign and general elections to folow.
4th Nov, 2013
Aleksander Stańczak
Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine
Osmar, not exactly. I don't know how about Hitler, but there is some evidence on Stalin's specific, kind of vicious sense of humor. Stalin liked to threaten his subordinates with some rude jokes or to use metaphorical sayings, e.g. "Introducing communism in Poland is like saddling a cow". In Martin's HSQ, Stalin would probably get high result in the scale of aggresive humor.
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4th Nov, 2013
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
I think we need to keep humor appreciation and sense of humor separate. Actually, they do not correlate at all empirically. Also, I wonder whether we talk about sarcasm or cynicism here. Does this fall under "humor"--thats probably a matter of (arbitrary) definition.
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4th Nov, 2013
Osmar Ferreira Oliveira
Webcap Research Ltd.
Metaphors may not be considered humor (dark or bright ) specifically.
Please take a look at any book about Stalin and you will note that he was a very very dark bureaucratic psychopath.
How to keep humor appreciation from sense of humor. If you appreciate something , you have a sense of it. Even though you may not know to tell jokes.
Sarcasm and cynicism are forms of humor, although not jokes, but that can be appreciated. Humor has always some kind of sarcasm or cynicism. It depends who establishes the approach, not definition. They do not fall, they are affects into humor. Humor is a form of releasing energy ( aggressive or libidinal ).
For Stalin, take a look at Gen. Volkogorov books.There are millions of Stalin´s jokes, but all them were not made or told by him.
Example
Lenin dies and goes to heaven. He’s armed. St Peter stops him at the door. ‘You can’t come in here with a weapon’. Lenin looks up and behind him sees a man with a grey beard and a machine gun. ‘But what about that guy?’ ‘He’s the exception. He’s Karl Marx and he’s waiting for Stalin.
4th Nov, 2013
Aleksander Stańczak
Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine
I absolutely didn't mean jokes about Stalin, rather his real quotes, cited in many sources. Of course, it doesn't explain his popularity, just gives the view of his specific sense of humor. I see that you've used the definition by Freud, which certainly can be useful, but it's not the only one - see cognitive theories (and e.g. Tony Veale's research on metaphor role in humor). However, according to what Willibald Ruch said, I fully agree that we should distinguish, maybe two dimensions, appreciation and creation of humor and study their results among psychopaths. By the way, can you tell me something more about difference between a form of humor and a joke?
4th Nov, 2013
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
For Freud jokes were not humor. He distinguished between jokes, the comic, and humor. You are always "saving" energy (which is not needed anymore, and "laughed off". In jokes it is to repress the tendentious content (sexual, hostile, or skeptic), in humor it is feelings (of sympathy, for example), and in comic it is ideational. Well, thats Freud. Jokes are short graphical or verbal material that typically have a punchline at the end, that triggers a surprise reaction, followed by a problem solving part and an illumination at the end--all preceding laughter. A short punchline that really condenses information is good. Humorous stories may be longer, no classical punchline at the end. Also humor often is seen as a benevolent, sympathy arousing, usually more cultivated forms of laughter. But as a I said, some languages make this distinction, and others don't. In some languages, "hostile" humor is an oxymoron (wit can be hostile, but humor is "good").
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4th Nov, 2013
Osmar Ferreira Oliveira
Webcap Research Ltd.
I did not say you did Ksandar. I did not use a Freudian definition. For hundreds millions of his victims Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili never had a single sense of humor beyond or behind his evil life. Metaphor is the realm of Language and I do not mix the tactics of humor with it. Appreciation is the theme of the original question and its relationship and dependence of intelligence. Those who do not appreciate and do not understand humor: do not create it ! Excuse me, but I do not know a form of humor ( would you explain what you call by it? Please take a look at paronomasia, malapropism and other into ttp://library.thinkquest.org/J002267F/types_of_humor.htm
WillBald: jokes that have not humor are not jokes. To comprehend humor as something so naïve as read into Freud is to ignore the forces that drive human beings through cynicism and sarcasm. There are so many readings as there are readers, for the same text. When humor does not impact, intelligence has an impact on humor appreciation?
4th Nov, 2013
András Györfi
Spitalul Municipal "DR. Pop Mircea" Marghita
Mesdames et monseigneurs,
I would like to announce this evening the succesful quantization of humor here
The abovementioned process respects the uncertainty principle of the whereabouts of humor’s wavelike particles called joyon, but I have to recognize that violates the laws of conservation of mirth.
Aleksander
In a thread discussing the sources of humor we have discussed about the possibility that humor is originating in the removal, the eliberation of a threat. In case of Stalin’s rude jokes, this kind of eliberation was related to the motif “Noone is stronger the Djugashvili” and “Noone is stronger than the Soviets”. Of course, these stupid kind of jokes ignited a cluster of anti-jokes as cited by Osmar (Marx vs Stalin), declaring the falsity and unhuman nature of communist regimes. These political jokes in those times were kind of one-way ticket to hell in Eastern Europe and a lot of people living in the free world can not be aware of this situation – but the risks to tell these jokes in a restrained circle was essential to maintain the mental health of normal (= non-communist) people. Belive me, I know what I’m talking about. So, humor and jokes are a very important issue: survival of a nation defeated in a war can depend on a correct sense of humor.
Willibald,
I don’t understand exactly why do you try to separate appreciation of humor from sense of humor.
On the other hand, Freud made a great surprise in his hypocryte time with his thougths – but these thoughts are not holding in our times when the sexual taboos are not respected anymore. Freud is depassee today.
Osmar,
Lenin on his death-bed calls his successor.
- Tavarish Stalin, I have a concern. Do you think that all our communists will follow you after my death?
- Be assured, tavarish Lenin, they will! – answers Stalin.
- But how can be so sure? – asks Lenin. – What if some of them will not follow you?!
- That will not harm our cause, tavarish Lenin! They will follow you!
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5th Nov, 2013
Osmar Ferreira Oliveira
Webcap Research Ltd.
And Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, did it! As the most known nazi propaganda sentence for Jews and enemies: " Arbeit macht frei " to Paradise or just as into the old man that denied to become a jihadist: " I have ED; what for the 72?
And we still have a lot here in Brazil: stalinists , leninists , troskists and maoists into our federal government .... Their only objective is to become bourgeoisie. A lot of dramatic facts started and were feed just as jokes! Hope the face of Chavez will not appear between my lines. Believe, it is not a joke: Brazil imports thousands of doctors from Cuba and pay them through the castrate regimen....
1 Recommendation
1st Jan, 2014
Willibald Ruch
University of Zurich
András: I think the sense of humor an humor appreciation need to be kept separate for a variety of reasons. Basically humor is multidimensional and the different components are not highly intercorrelated. Liking jokes (i.e., humor appreciation) tells a lot about your cognitive complexity, your preference os redundancy or or information. And way topics are salient for you. The sense of humor is not ties to finding something funny; it is more a view on the world and the attitude that you should not take yourself too seriously. Empirically it has been shown that liking of jokes and self-reported sense of humor did not correlate at all.
Osmar: I agree that a joke has t have the potential to be found funny by someone to be considered a joke. Whether it needs to have "humor", depends on what we want to understand by "humor. For Freud, humor was a defense mechanism; it saved energy as we don't need to feel sympathy. He kept humor and jokes separately… in jokes there is the repression of taboo topics. But this might be just a matter of defining words. In some countries humor is an umbrella term for everything funny (including jokes, ridicule, mockers). In other countries these terms are kept separate.
1 Recommendation
28th Aug, 2021
Don L. F. Nilsen
Arizona State University
International Society for Humor Studies: http://www.humorstudies.org/ .
Alleen and Don Nilsen’s The Language of Humor (Cambridge University Press, 2019) is now available. We have developed a PowerPoint to accompany each of the twenty-five chapters of the book as follows:
Chapter 1: Introduction & Humor Theories Chapter 2: Humor in Anthropology & Ethnic Studies Chapter 3: Humor in Art Chapter 4: Humor in Business Chapter 5: Humor in Computer Science Chapter 6: Humor in Education Chapter 7: Humor in Gender Studies Chapter 8a: Humor in Geography I (International Humor: Books, Conferences and Organizations) Chapter 8b: Humor in Geography II (International Humor: Examples and Discussion) Chapter 9: Humor in Gerontology Chapter 10: Humor in History Chapter 11: Humor in Journalism Chapter 12: Humor in Law Chapter 13: Humor in Linguistics Chapter 14: Humor in Literature Chapter 15: Humor in Medicine and Health Chapter 16: Humor in Music Chapter 17: Humor in Names and Naming Chapter 18: Humor in the Performing Arts Chapter 19: Humor in Philosophy Chapter 20: Humor in Physical Education Chapter 21: Humor in Politics Chapter 22: Humor in Psychology Chapter 23: Humor in Religion Chapter 24: Humor in Rhetoric and Composition Chapter 25: Humor in Sociology We’re sending you a PowerPoint indicating how humor is important to your particular discipline. Please let us know if you would like to receive any of our other humor-related PowerPoints (see above). Thanks. Don and Alleen Nilsen don.nilsen@asu.edu alleen.nilsen@asu.edu .
29th Aug, 2021
Olena Taukchi
Ukrainian Engineering Pedagogics Academy
In fact, a number of studies have found an association between humour and intelligence.
Besides, Albert Einstein attributed his brilliant mind to having a good sense of humour.
Austrian researchers arrived at the conclusion that witty people, particularly those who are into dark humour, have higher IQs as compared to their peers. They're positive that it takes both cognitive and emotional ability to process and produce humour. The analysis proves that witty people have higher verbal and non-verbal intelligence, and they score lower in mood disturbance and aggressiveness. Consequently, they are really good to be around.
2 Recommendations

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