ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

The present study focused on genetic and environmental influences on appreciation of structure and content of humor. Monozygotic (n = 135) and dizygotic (n = 60) adult twin pairs rated their trait-like humor appreciation using the 3 WD humor test (Ruch, 1992) which assesses three basic humor stimuli (incongruity-resolution humor; nonsense humor; sexual humor), and two basic components of responses to humor (funniness; aversiveness). Additionally, two indices were derived from these scales, namely structure preference and liking of sexual content (i.e., controlled for humor structure). Intraclass correlations and behavior genetic model-fitting analyses indicated a moderate genetic effect for funniness ratings of liking the sexual content. The remaining funniness scales seemed entirely influenced by environmental effects. Aversiveness scales mainly showed environmental effects represented in reduced CE models, although twin similarity coefficients showed hints of genetic influences as well, which needs to be unraveled in future research. The results demonstrated clearly that funniness ratings should be separated for structure and content, to obtain detailed information about heritability of humor appreciation. Future research should validate these promising initial findings by utilizing larger samples.
Content may be subject to copyright.
This%manuscript%was%published%as:%
%
!"#"$%&'(%&)*+,%&!(%&)-"./00%&)(%&12-0/3,%&4(&'(%&5&6078"-30"$%&6(&
!"#$%&'()(*+,-(.*/01(2-(3/425(677589,6*,2-:(;38(,4725*6-98(2<(
separating*structure*and*content.*Journal(of(Individual(Differences,(35,(
1304136."doi:%0.1027/161440001/a000136%%
%
%
RUNNING HEAD: TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 1
A twin study on humor appreciation: The importance of separating structure and content
Marco Weber and Willibald Ruch
Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Rainer Riemann
Department of Psychology, University of Bielefeld, Germany
Frank M. Spinath
Department of Psychology, University of Saarland, Germany
Alois Angleitner
Department of Psychology, University of Bielefeld, Germany
Author Notes
Marco Weber, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzerland;
Willibald Ruch, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzerland; Rainer
Riemann, Department of Psychology, University of Bielefeld, Germany; Frank M. Spinath,
Department of Psychology, University of Saarland, Germany; Alois Angleitner, Department
of Psychology, University of Bielefeld, Germany.
Marco Weber is currently at the Department of Psychology, University of South
Carolina, SC, USA.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Marco Weber,
Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA. E-
mail: m.weber@sc.edu
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 2
Abstract
The present study focused on genetic and environmental influences on appreciation of
structure and content of humor. Monozygotic (n = 135) and dizygotic (n = 60) adult twin
pairs rated their trait-like humor appreciation using the 3 WD humor test (Ruch, 1992) which
assesses three basic humor stimuli (incongruity-resolution humor; nonsense humor; sexual
humor), and two basic components of responses to humor (funniness; aversiveness).
Additionally, two indices were derived from these scales, namely structure preference and
liking of sexual content (i.e., controlled for humor structure). Intraclass correlations and
behavior genetic model-fitting analyses indicated a moderate genetic effect for funniness
ratings of liking the sexual content. The remaining funniness scales seemed entirely
influenced by environmental effects. Aversiveness scales mainly showed environmental
effects represented in reduced CE models, although twin similarity coefficients showed hints
of genetic influences as well, which needs to be unraveled in future research. The results
demonstrated clearly that funniness ratings should be separated for structure and content, to
obtain detailed information about heritability of humor appreciation. Future research should
validate these promising initial findings by utilizing larger samples.
Keywords: humor appreciation, twin study, incongruity-resolution humor, nonsense
humor, sexual humor
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 3
A twin study on humor appreciation: The importance of separating structure and content
Introduction
Over the last decades there has been an increase in publications (scientific and non-
scientific) showing that humor is an important topic. For example, humor impacts
individuals’ good mood, and humor shields against the consequences of life stress and daily
hassles (Ruch, 2004). As such effects might be relevant to individuals, it is of importance to
understand genetic and environmental influences on humor appreciation. Previous research
has yielded inconsistent findings; hence, the present study aims at adding further knowledge
by introducing an important structural distinction provided by the two-mode model of humor
appreciation.
An approach to humor appreciation
Ruch (1992; Platt & Ruch, 2014; Ruch & Hehl, 2007) presented a two-mode model of
humor appreciation composed of a stimulus mode and a response mode. The stimulus mode
refers to a taxonomy of jokes and cartoons comprising the dimensions of incongruity-
resolution humor (INC-RES), nonsense humor (NON), and sexual humor (SEX). In the
response mode two orthogonal components in humor appreciation are distinguished:
funniness (f) and aversiveness (a).
Funniness of humor. Studies of responses to humor show that all positively toned
ratings tend to intercorrelate highly and positively, independent of whether they refer to the
perceived properties of the stimuli (funny, witty, original), or to the recipients' feelings
(exhilarated, amused). This positive response factor also covers both cognitive (clever,
original) and affective (funny, amused) evaluations.
Aversiveness of humor. Negative responses to humor, like indignation,
embarrassment, or boredom were neglected for a long time. However, a humor response
factor of negative affect consistently emerged from the intercorrelations among the negatively
toned response scales (like embarrassing, plain, childish, aggressive) that is orthogonal to the
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 4
funniness dimension. In studies of humor appreciation a rating of “aversiveness” best
represents this factor.
Factor analyses aimed at establishing a taxonomy of jokes and cartoons revealed that
both structure and content of humor have to be considered in the classification of humor
(Platt & Ruch, 2014). More specifically, two factors relate to structural properties of the jokes
and cartoons and one to their content. Jokes and cartoons of the structure-dominated INC-
RES humor category are characterized by punch lines in which the surprising incongruity can
be completely resolved. The common element in this type of humor is that the recipient first
discovers an incongruity, which is then fully resolvable upon consideration of information
available elsewhere in the joke or cartoon. The other consistently emerging structural factor is
NON humor, which also has a surprising or incongruous punch line. However, the punch line
may (1) provide no resolution at all, (2) provide only a partial resolution, or (3) actually
create new absurdities or incongruities. In nonsense humor the resolution information gives
the appearance of making sense out of incongruities without actually doing so.
The third factor (SEX humor) is characterized by the salient content. There are a
variety of sexual themes involved, and only the sex jokes and cartoons load on this factor.
However, SEX humor does not consist of pure content, but is embedded in a joke framework.
Both the incongruity-resolution and the nonsense structure can provide the basis of SEX
humor as they do for non-tendentious content. A factor of sexual humor has consistently been
found since the first factor analytic study of humor (Eysenck, 1942). It is likely that more
content factors will be found once a simultaneous control of both content and structure
becomes a standard procedure (Ruch & Platt, 2012).
The two-mode model provides an exhaustive taxonomy for the classification of both
humor responses and humor stimuli. A subject's humor appreciation is described by his/her
response profile in this 2 x 3 (response dimensions x humor stimulus factors) model. The
validity of the two-mode model of humor appreciation is supported by the results of several
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 5
personality studies (e.g., Carretero-Dios & Ruch, 2010; Ruch, 1992, 2008; Ruch & Hehl,
2007; Ruch & Malcherek, 2009). For example, the 3WD scales were found as meaningful
predictors of characteristics like conservatism (positively related to INC-RESf), openness to
experience (negatively related to INC-RESf, positively to NONf, and negatively to NONa),
agreeableness (positively related to INC-RESf), and sensation seeking (negatively related to
INC-RESf, positively to NONf, and negatively to NONa and SEXa).
Prior behavior genetic investigations on humor appreciation
At present, there are only a few behavior genetic studies on humor appreciation.
Wilson and colleagues (e.g., Nias & Wilson, 1977) were the first to attend to genetic and
environmental influences on humor appreciation. They analyzed ratings of funniness of 48
cartoons, representing four groups (i.e., nonsense, satirical, aggressive, and sexual). Results
indicated environmental influences predominantly, although liking of aggressive humor
tended to be partly genetically determined as monozygotic twins showed a numerically higher
intraclass correlation than dizygotic twins, but the coefficients did not differ significantly.
More current research regarding humor appreciation was presented from Cherkas and
colleagues (Cherkas, Hochberg, MacGregor, Snieder, & Spector, 2000). They used a five-
item cartoon test (consisting of “Far Side”-Larson cartoons). Results of a multivariate
behavior genetic analysis suggested no genetic influences on humor appreciation.
Thus, in both studies, monozygotic twins were not more similar than dizygotic twins.
The correlations between both groups of twin pairs (all reared together) showed that shared
environmental influences were most relevant, followed by non-shared (i.e., unique)
environmental influences. As a result, one might conclude that familial and peer influences
predominantly determine what we consider to be funny. This is noteworthy, as a finding of no
genetic influences on a reliably measured psychological trait characteristic is a rare exception
(cf. Turkheimer, 2000). Furthermore, the contents of humor (aggression, sex), and major
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 6
predictors of humor appreciation (extraversion, conservatism, sensation seeking) are known
to have a strong genetic basis.
Ruch (2008) argued that it would be premature to conclude from these studies that
humor appreciation is exclusively determined by environmental factors. The study by
Cherkas et al. (2000), for example, used only five cartoons. This is exactly the number of
cartoons that appears to be affected by a “warm-up-effect” that introduces a considerable
amount of state variance (Ruch, 1992). For this reason, the first five cartoons are often
excluded from scoring in humor appreciation tests. Furthermore, the aforementioned studies
used humor scales that did not undergo an explicit construction and hence it is uncertain what
they actually measure. Most importantly, these studies did not differentiate between structure
and content. For example, while the study by Nias and Wilson (1977) examined content
categories, they did not consider that funniness of both sexual and aggressive cartoons also
represents liking of the structural properties of humor.
The present study
Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to estimate genetic and environmental
influences on humor appreciation using a twin-design, and using a more sophisticated, well-
validated, and reliable inventory that is based on a comprehensive model of humor
appreciation (Platt & Ruch, 2014; Ruch, 1992). The 3 WD scales allow both the structure and
the content of humor appreciation to be accounted for, and the 3 WD humor test is the only
humor appreciation measure that yields a content score for sexual humor. Hence, the present
study aimed to clarify the issue of a possible genetic basis of humor appreciation.
Method
Participants
A total of 390 adult twins embedded in the Bielefeld Longitudinal Study of Adult
Twins (BiLSAT; e.g., Spinath, Wolf, Angleitner, Borkenau, & Riemann, 2005) were
investigated. The sample was comprised of 135 monozygotic (MZ) pairs and 60 dizygotic
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 7
(DZ) pairs. Their ages varied from 28 to 81 years with a mean of 47.9 years (SD = 13.6
years). Women (84.9%) participated more frequently than men (15.1%).
Measure
3 WD. The 3 WD (“3 Witz-Dimensionen”) humor test (Ruch, 1992) assesses
funniness and aversiveness of three humor stimuli: incongruity-resolution humor, nonsense
humor, and sexual humor. The 3 WD presents 29 jokes and cartoons utilizing a 7-point rating
scale for each response mode (i.e., “0” = not at all funny to “6” = very funny; “0” = not at all
aversive to “-6” = very aversive). The first five items are “warm up” items, which are not
analyzed. Scale scores (i.e., INC-RESf, NONf, SEXf, INC-RESa, NONa, SEXa) were
computed by summing up the eight items per scale. For both funniness and aversiveness of
the content of sexual humor, additional indices can be derived via regressing each SEX scale
(SEXf, SEXa) for INC-RES and NON, and the standardized residual scores were used as
indicators of liking of the content in sexual humor (SEXf-resid, SEXa-resid). The structure
preference indices (i.e., SPIf, SPIa) were obtained by subtracting INC-RES from NON, and
they reflect the relative dominance of liking of incongruity over resolution. Two sum scores
(SUMf, SUMa) were computed by summing up all 24 items for each of the two response
modes (for an overview see Table 1). Previous studies regarding the psychometric properties
of the 3 WD showed that the reliability estimates are satisfactory for all computed scales (cf.
Ruch, 1992).
Insert Table 1 about here
Procedure
In the BiLSAT, test-booklets including several personality tests were mailed to the
participants. To minimize participants’ effort, short versions were used whenever existing.
Therefore, an abbreviated version of the 3 WD was generated that reduced the number of
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 8
items per scale from ten to eight. Participants were instructed to complete the questionnaires
independently from each other in a non-distracting setting, and without comparing item
responses with their twin-sibling. Participants returned the completed material free of charge
within a period of five weeks.
Analyses
Zygosity was derived from a physical similarity questionnaire (Oniszczenko,
Angleitner, Strelau, & Angert, 1993) in which participants were asked to describe and
compare themselves with their twin-sibling on selected physical characteristics. Prior to the
calculation of twin similarities and univariate behavior genetic analyses, all variables were
controlled for age and gender using the standardized residual scores of regression analyses
(cf. McGue & Bouchard, 1984). Twin similarity was calculated as intraclass correlations
(ICC 1.1; Shrout & Fleiss, 1979), and genetic and environmental influences were estimated
using the software package Mx (Neale, Boken, Xie, & Maes, 2003). For all investigated
variables variance-covariance matrices were analyzed. The estimated models (i.e., ACE, AE,
CE) specified additive genetic effects (A), shared environmental effects (C), and non-shared
environmental effects (E). In the analysis of manifest variables E confounds variance of both
non-shared effects and measurement error.
Results
Preliminary analyses
Means, standard deviations, and internal consistencies (Cronbach’s alpha) for all
3 WD scales as well as correlations between 3 WD scales, and age and gender were
computed (see Table 2).
Insert Table 2 about here
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 9
Table 2 shows that means of INC-RESf, NONa, and SEXa were higher than expected,
whereas the mean of NONf was lower than expected (cf. Ruch, 1992). Reliability coefficients
of the abbreviated version were satisfying for all scales (see Table 2). Funniness of
incongruity-resolution humor (INC-RESf) and aversiveness of nonsense humor (NONa)
yielded positive correlations with age. No relationship was found between NONf and age.
Female participants found sexual humor more aversive than men did (see Table 2).
Twin analysis of 3 WD scales and derived indices
To estimate genetic and environmental effects on different aspects of humor
appreciation intraclass correlations (ICC), as indicators of twin similarity, and twin analyses
including full ACE models and reduced models (AE, CE) were carried out. Due to low
sample size, we carefully explored the results in three steps: Followed by an inspection of the
ICCs, in the second step we focused on the full ACE models when exploring the results
(although confidence intervals included zero). Finally, to validate these results, we inspected
the reduced CE models in case the ICC of the dizygotic twins exceeded the halved ICC of the
monozygotic twins, indicating mainly environmental influences, and we inspected the
reduced AE models in case the ICC of the dizygotic twins was lower than the halved ICC of
the monozygotic twins, indicating both genetic and environmental influences (see Table 3 for
funniness and Table 4 for aversiveness).
Insert Table 3 about here
Table 3 shows that intraclass correlations (ICC) for liking the content of sexual humor
(SEXf-resid) suggested moderate genetic influences, and considerable non-shared
environmental influences, because correlations for MZ were numerically higher than
correlations for DZ twins. Also INC-RESf seemed to be slightly affected by genetic effects.
The correlation pattern for nonsense humor (NONf), sexual humor (SEXf), total funniness
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 10
score (SUMf), and structure preference (SPIf) suggested substantial environmental influences
as the ICC coefficients for MZ and DZ were nearly identical or even DZ correlations were
considerably higher (e.g., NONf). These suggestions were mostly detected in the full ACE
models, and after a careful inspection of the reduced models (see Table 3). E followed by A
seemed to be the most relevant influential factors for SEXf-resid and INC-RESf, although C
has a small impact on INC-RESf as well. NONf was mostly influenced by effects of E and C.
For SEXf, SUMf, and SPIf E was mostly influential followed by effects of C, and small
effects of A. Both the full ACE model and the reduced CE model of SUMf fell below a p-
level of 0.05; thus, it should be rejected as the data significantly did not fit to the tested
models. The careful examination of the reduced models showed that only for SEXf-resid the
AE model seemed to be meaningful; for all remaining funniness variables the CE models
appeared to best fit our data.
Insert Table 4 about here
Table 4 shows that intraclass correlations (ICC) of aversiveness ratings suggested for
incongruity-resolution humor (INC-RESa), sexual humor (SEXa), total aversiveness score
(SUMa), and content of sexual humor (SEXa-resid) small to moderate genetic and substantial
environmental influences, because correlations for MZ were numerically higher than
correlations for DZ twins. For nonsense humor (NONa) and structure preference (SPIa) only
environmental influences were suggested as the ICC coefficients for MZ and DZ were nearly
identical or even DZ correlations were considerably higher (e.g., SPIa).
Examining the above-mentioned suggestions for aversiveness variables, estimates of
A, C, and E influences were inspected in the full ACE models and in the reduced models.
Table 4 shows for the full models that INC-RESa was mostly influenced by effects of E and
A. SEXa-resid, SEXa, and SUMa were mostly influenced by E, followed by A, and small
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 11
effects of C. In contrast, for NONa and SPIa only effects of C and E mattered. After a careful
inspection of the reduced models, CE models appeared to be most meaningful for all
aversiveness variables, although INC-RESa might be also affected by genetic influences,
which needs to be studied further.
Discussion
This study investigated genetic and environmental influences on humor appreciation
separated for structure and content. Prior studies did not pay attention to the fact that both
content and structure contribute to appreciation of humorous material, and that the assessment
of appreciation of humor contents is typically contaminated with liking of structural features
of jokes (e.g., cleverness, complexity, surprisingness etc.). Also in the present study the
3 WD standard sexual humor (SEXf, SEXa) scales represent mixtures of liking of both
structure and content features, but the two indices (SEXf-resid, SEXa-resid) represent only
appreciation of the sexual content in humor, because they are corrected for humor structure
(INC-RES, NON). This separation of the structure categories allows to estimate the
heritability of liking of content features, and these initial results underscore the importance of
this separation.
Humorous content
Funniness of sexual humor (SEXf; i.e., the standard scale including structure and
content) showed in the full ACE models only a small tendency to be impacted by genetic
effects (just as in the study by Nias & Wilson, 1977), and was mostly influenced by non-
shared, and shared environmental factors, but funniness of the content in sexual humor
(SEXf-resid; i.e., the structure-corrected content scale) presents an unambiguous genetic
component (accounting for 35% of variance). This goes along with prior findings as, for
example, Eysenck (1976) found a substantial genetic basis for libido in male participants.
Kirk, Bailey, Dunne, and Martin (2000) reported additive genetic effects for orientation of
sexual fantasies, attitudes to heterosexual or homosexual sex, and number of partners of the
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 12
opposite sex, as accounting for between 34% and 53% of the variation. Appreciation of
content in sexual humor was exactly related to such variables in prior studies (i.e., correlated
with sexual libido, behaviors and attitudes; Ruch & Hehl, 1988). It appears that higher libido
will make sexual topics in humor more attractive; they will be processed more deeply, the
incongruity will be perceived as stronger which, in turn, will lead to a quicker resolution or
partial resolution of the incongruity, and thereby also to higher appreciation (higher
funniness, lower aversiveness).
Structural humor components
Variance estimates for the pure structural component incongruity-resolution humor
(INC-RES) showed the tendency of both funniness and aversiveness ratings to be slightly
affected by genetic and mainly by environmental effects. Incongruity was one of the first
ingredients of humor to be discussed as it has been mentioned more than 2000 years ago (cf.
Deckers, 1993; Schmidt-Hidding, 1963), and INC-RES humor is the most popular humor
type (i.e., it underlies most humor in the German culture). As noted above, individuals who
score high on INC-RES show a need for structured, stable, and unambiguous stimuli (Ruch,
1992), just as conservatives do, and conservatism is known for its heritability (e.g., Bouchard,
2004).
Contrary to INC-RES, both funniness and aversiveness of nonsense humor (NON)
seem to be best represented in environmental models. NON humor involves the appreciation
of residual incongruity (i.e., the initial incongruity in a punch line that can not be fully
resolved, or the [new] incongruity that is brought about by a partial resolution of the initial
incongruity). Nonsense humor is historically more recent, and is mentioned in literature since
the middle of the 19th century (cf. Schmidt-Hidding, 1963). It is not mainstream humor, and is
found more often in the alternative culture. It should also be noted that neither Cherkas et al.
(2000) nor Nias and Wilson (1977) found any evidence for heritability of nonsense humor.
Cherkas et al. (2000) studied “Far Side”-Larson cartoons that have been clearly subsumed
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 13
under nonsense humor (Ruch, 2008). It is not clear from the descriptions by Nias and Wilson
(1977) whether they studied nonsense humor in the sense of unresolvable incongruity or
merely “harmless” (i.e., non-tendentious) humor. However, nonsense humor is predicted by
openness to experience, and the experience seeking subscale of sensation seeking, and
individuals liking nonsense often display a preference for complexity and grotesque literature
(Ruch & Malcherek, 2009). Thus, as sensation seeking is a highly heritable trait it is
noticeable that appreciation of nonsense humor did not yield any genetic effect. The
preference of humor structure (INC-RES vs. NON) shows, in both funniness and aversiveness
ratings, mostly environmental influences (shared and non-shared effects).
Future research
The present results seem to be a meaningful step in analyzing humor appreciation
based on twin data, but there is a need for further behavior genetic evidence in this field.
First, as a main limitation of the present research, future studies should utilize larger samples
to enhance the statistical power when estimating behavior genetic models. Second, to get
detailed information about genetic and environmental influences on humor appreciation,
future studies might think about splitting the humorous data into two components: their
structure and their content (cf. Platt & Ruch, 2014; Ruch & Platt, 2012). A first candidate for
such an approach is aggressive humor. Nias and Wilson (1977) failed to find a clear genetic
effect, but in their study structure and content were not separated. As for the sexual, so for the
aggressive content in humor, genetic effects may be expected (e.g., Eley, Lichtenstein, &
Moffitt, 2003). Third, research on humor appreciation thus far was restricted to printed
material (e.g., jokes and cartoons). Movies or short clips were not utilized, but such new
media allows for efficient presentation of humor, and this has not been used yet. Contents like
aggression, sexuality, or disgust might be more salient in such material, and hence, content
might get a higher share of the individual differences compared to the cognitive processes.
Fourth, future research should study the genetic effects of humor appreciation and of major
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 14
predictors of humor (e.g., conservatism) jointly to see whether the two sets of data can be
explained by the same latent genetic effect. For example, the simultaneous study of sensation
seeking and nonsense will also illuminate why sensation seeking is highly heritable but
appreciation of nonsense humor is not. Furthermore, because individuals with higher
neuroticism (N) scores dislike things principally more than N low-scorer and N is known as a
trait that is substantially genetically influenced (e.g., Bouchard, 2004), the simultaneous study
of 3 WD aversiveness ratings and N might unravel the link between a genetic base of
aversiveness ratings in this humor context and individuals’ N levels.
All in all, we know too little about the relative contribution of genetics and
environment to humor appreciation and further research is requested. This should also entail
the illumination of the different environmental factors that make humor more funny or more
aversive.
References
Bouchard, T. J. (2004). Genetic influences on human psychological traits. A survey. Current
Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 148-151. doi:10.1111/j.0963-
7214.2004.00295.x
Carretero-Dios, H., & Ruch, W. (2010). Humor appreciation and sensation seeking:
Invariance of findings across culture and assessment instrument? Humor, 23, 427-445.
doi:10.1515/HUMR.2010.020
Cherkas, L., Hochberg, F., MacGregor, A. J., Snieder, H., & Spector, T. D. (2000). Happy
families: A twin study of humour. Twin Research, 3, 17-22. doi:10.1375/twin.3.1.17
Deckers, L. (1993). On the validity of a weight-judging paradigm for the study of humor.
Humor, 6, 43-56. doi:10.1515/humr.1993.6.1.43
Eley, T. C., Lichtenstein, P., & Moffitt, T. E. (2003). A longitudinal behavioral genetic
analysis of the etiology of aggressive and nonaggressive antisocial behavior.
Development and Psychopathology, 15, 383-402. doi:10.1017/S095457940300021X
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 15
Eysenck, H. J. (1942). The appreciation of humor: An experimental and theoretical study.
British Journal of Psychology, 32, 295-309. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1942.tb01027.x
Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Sex and personality. London: Open Books Publishing Limited.
Kirk, K. M., Bailey, J. M., Dunne, M. P., & Martin, N. G. (2000). Measurement models for
sexual orientation in a community twin sample. Behavior Genetics, 30, 345-356.
doi:10.1023/A:1026557719181
McGue, M., & Bouchard, T. J. (1984). Adjustment of twin data for the effects of age and sex.
Behavior Genetics, 14, 325-343. doi:10.1007/BF01080045
Neale, M. C., Boker, S. M., Xie, G., & Maes, H. H. (2003). Mx: Statistical modeling (6th ed.)
(computer software). Richmond, VA: Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral
Genetics, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Nias, D. K. B., & Wilson, G. D. (1977). A genetic analysis of humour preferences. In A. J.
Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), It`s a funny thing, humour (pp. 371-373). Oxford:
Pergamon Press.
Oniszczenko, W., Angleitner, A., Strelau, J., & Angert, T. (1993). The questionnaire of twins’
physical resemblance. Unpublished manuscript, University of Bielefeld.
Platt, T., & Ruch, W. (2014). 3 WD Humor Test. In S. Attardo (Ed.), Encyclopedia of humor
studies (pp. 763-765). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ruch, W. (1992). Assessment of appreciation of humor: Studies with the 3 WD humor test. In
C. D. Spielberger & J. N. Butcher (Eds.), Advances in personality assessment (Vol. 9,
pp. 27-75). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Ruch, W. (2004). Humor. In C. Peterson & M. E. P. Seligman (Eds.), Character strengths
and virtues: A handbook and classification (pp. 583-598). Oxford: University Press.
Ruch, W. (2008). The psychology of humor. In V. Raskin (Ed.), A primer of humor (pp. 17-
100). Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 16
Ruch, W., & Hehl, F.-J. (1988). Attitudes to sex, sexual behaviour and enjoyment of humour.
Personality and Individual Differences, 9, 983-994. doi:10.1016/0191-
8869(88)90132-8
Ruch, W., & Hehl, F.-J. (2007). A two-mode model of humor appreciation: Its relation to
aesthetic appreciation and simplicity-complexity of personality. In W. Ruch (Ed.), The
sense of humor: Explorations of a personality characteristic (pp. 109-142). Berlin:
Mouton de Gruyter.
Ruch, W., & Malcherek, J. (2009). Sensation seeking, general aesthetic preferences, and
humor appreciation as predictors of liking of the grotesque. Journal of Literary
Theory, 3, 333-351.
Ruch, W., & Platt, T. (2012). Separating content and structure in humor appreciation: The
need for a bimodal model and support from research into aesthetics. In A. Nijhold
(Ed.), 3rd International workshop on computational humor (pp. 23-27). Amsterdam,
The Netherlands: University of Amsterdam.
Schmidt-Hidding, W. (Ed.). (1963). European key words: Humor and wit (Vol. I). Munich,
Germany: Hueber.
Shrout, K. J., & Fleiss, J. L. (1979). Intraclass correlation: Use in assessing rater reliability.
Psychological Bulletin, 86, 420-428. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.86.2.420
Spinath, F. M., Wolf, H., Angleitner, A., Borkenau, P., & Riemann, R. (2005). Multimodal
investigation of personality and cognitive ability. Results from two German twin
studies BiLSAT and GOSAT. Journal for Sociology of Education and Socialization,
25, 146-161.
Turkheimer, E. (2000). Three laws of behavior genetics and what they mean. Current
Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 160-164. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00084
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 17
Table 1
Model of Humor Appreciation as Measured by the 3 WD Including Six Regular Scales
and Six Derived Indices
Response mode in the 3 WD
Variables
Funniness (f)
Aversiveness (a)
3 WD regular scales (8 items each)
Incongruity-resolution humor (INC-RES)
INC-RESf
INC-RESa
Nonsense humor (NON)
NONf
NONa
Sexual humor (SEX; incl. INC-RES or
NON)
SEXf
SEXa
Derived Indices
Sum scores over 24 items (SUM)
SUMf
SUMa
Structure preference index (SPI; NON
minus INC-RES)
SPIf
SPIa
Liking of sexual content in humor (SEX
excl. INC-RES or NON)
SEXf-resid
SEXa-resid
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 18
Table 2
3 WD Humor Test: Means, Standard Deviations, Internal Consistencies, and
Correlations With Age and Gender
Descriptives
Correlations
Variables
M
SD
α
Age
Gender
3 WD funniness
INC-RESf
23.55
9.85
.84
.29***
.06
NONf
12.10
8.66
.79
.07
-.08
SEXf
15.22
9.70
.81
.11*
-.10
3 WD aversiveness
INC-RESa
6.99
8.82
.89
.11*
-.02
NONa
14.02
12.21
.88
.22***
.04
SEXa
21.06
13.21
.88
.10
.17***
Note. Analyses are based on an abbreviated version of the 3 WD (8 items per
scale). N = 371-378. Gender: male = 1, female = 2.
*p < .05; ***p < .001 (two-tailed)
.
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 19
Table 3
Twin Similarities and Univariate Model-Fitting (ACE, AE, CE) Results for
3 WD Funniness Scales and Indicesa
ICC
Parameter estimates
Model fitb
Variables
MZ
DZ
Model
a2
c2
e2
χ2
p
INC-RESf
.34
.28
ACE
.28
(.00; .52)
.09
(.00; .41)
.63
(.48; .80)
7.52
.06
CE
0
.31
(.17; .43)
.69
(.57; .83)
8.73
.07
NONf
.37
.46
ACE
.00
(.00; .44)
.39
(.00; .51)
.61
(.48; .74)
6.68
.08
CE
0
.39
(.26; .51)
.61
(.49; .74)
6.68
.15
SEXf
.31
.32
ACE
.15
(.00; .49)
.20
(.00; .43)
.65
(.51; .81)
4.64
.20
CE
0
.31
(.18; .44)
.69
(.56; .82)
4.98
.29
SUMf
.30
.40
ACE
.05
(.00; .49)
.30
(.00; .46)
.65
(.50; .79)
10.08
.02
CE
0
.34
(.21; .46)
.66
(.54; .79)
10.12
.04
SPIf
.41
.37
ACE
.09
(.00; .52)
.31
(.00; .51)
.59
(.46; .73)
1.75
.63
CE
0
.39
(.27; .51)
.61
(.49; .73)
1.89
.76
SEXf-resid
.35
.10
ACE
.35
(.00; .48)
.00
(.00; .33)
.65
(.52; .81)
1.25
.74
AE
.35
(.19; .48)
0
.65
(.52; .81)
1.25
.87
Note. ICC = intraclass correlation (type 1.1). MZ = monozygotic twins.
DZ = dizygotic twins. a2 = genetic variance. c2 = shared environmental
variance. e2 = non-shared environmental variance (incl. measurement error).
95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses.
a The analyses are based on corrected data for age and sex from MZ (n = 131 - 134) and
DZ (n = 54 - 56) twin pairs. b Estimates of full ACE-models are based on d.f. = 3;
estimates of reduced models (CE, AE) are based on d.f. = 4. All p-values are two-tailed.
TWIN STUDY ON HUMOR APRRECIATION 20
Table 4
Twin Similarities and Univariate Model-Fitting (ACE, AE, CE) Results for
3 WD Aversiveness Scales and Indicesa
ICC
Parameter estimates
Model fitb
Variables
MZ
DZ
Model
a2
c2
e2
χ2
p
INC-RESa
.29
.16
ACE
.30
(.00; .45)
.00
(.00; .35)
.70
(.55; .87)
1.75
.63
AE
.30
(.14; .45)
0
.70
(.55; .86)
1.75
.78
CE
0
.25
(.11; .38)
.75
(.62; .89)
2.97
.56
NONa
.28
.27
ACE
.00
(.00; .40)
.27
(.00; .40)
.73
(.59; .86)
0.93
.82
CE
0
.27
(.14; .40)
.73
(.60; .86)
0.93
.92
SEXa
.38
.29
ACE
.22
(.00; .52)
.16
(.00; .45)
.62
(.48; .78)
1.08
.78
CE
0
.34
(.21; .46)
.66
(.54; .79)
1.79
.77
SUMa
.32
.23
ACE
.19
(.00; .46)
.13
(.00; .41)
.68
(.54; .84)
0.12
.99
CE
0
.29
(.15; .42)
.71
(.58; .85)
0.56
.97
SPIa
.13
.28
ACE
.00
(.00; .28)
.18
(.00; .31)
.82
(.69; .97)
1.50
.68
CE
0
.18
(.03; .31)
.82
(.69; .97)
1.50
.83
SEXa-resid
.39
.30
ACE
.33
(.00; .56)
.10
(.00; .45)
.57
(.44; .74)
3.35
.34
CE
0
.36
(.23; .48)
.64
(.52; .77)
5.13
.28
Note. ICC = intraclass correlation (type 1.1). MZ = monozygotic twins.
DZ = dizygotic twins. a2 = genetic variance. c2 = shared environmental
variance. e2 = non-shared environmental variance (incl. measurement error).
95% confidence intervals are shown in parentheses.
a The analyses are based on corrected data for age and sex from MZ (n = 128 - 130) and
DZ (n = 59) twin pairs. b Estimates of full ACE-models are based on d.f. = 3; estimates
of reduced models (CE, AE) are based on d.f. = 4. All p-values are two-tailed.
... In other words, it has been shown that positive and negative responses to humor are best represented by ratings of "funniness" and "aversiveness" (Ruch, 1992). Positive responses to humor are comprised of cognitive (clever, original) and affective (funny, amused) evaluations, while negative responses are related to aversive reactions to humor (indignation, embarrassment, boredom) (Weber, Ruch, Riemann, Spinath, & Angleitner, 2014). Although this two response dimensions are kept in the 3WD test (see Ruch, 1992), together with the three humor stimuli factors of INC-RES, NON, and Sexual humor (which is a content category), Ruch and Rath (1993) showed that the negative responses can be separated into two clusters ("offensive/indignation" and "simple/boredom"). ...
... Reflective and complex music factor from the study by Knowles (2013) had a strong positive correlation with openness to experience, which is one of the most robust predictors of high appreciation of NON humor. Genetic and environmental influences on humor structure appreciation (Weber et al., 2014) could be jointly analyzed with different fields of the aesthetic (art, music). As it was shown in this study, pleasantness ratings on complex-abstract art and sophisticated music were positively correlated. ...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of the present study is two-fold. Firstly, the relation between sensation seeking and humor structure appreciation has been investigated (Carretero-Dios & Ruch, 2010), and also the association between humor structure appreciation and complex-abstract art has been reported (Ruch & Hehl, 1998). In that sense, this study aims to replicate previously reported findings. Second, the association between humor structure appreciation and sophisticated music (Rentfrow, Goldberg, & Levitin, 2011) was explored. Results obtained from 77 participants partially supported the predictions. Sensation seeking was negatively related with the aversiveness ratings of Nonsense humor, while pleasantness of complex-abstract art was negatively associated with funniness of Incongruity-Resolution humor and positively with the structure preference index. Aversiveness of Incongruity-Resolution humor correlated negatively with sophisticated music ratings. Finally, ratings on the abstract-art paintings and sophisticated musical excerpts were positively associated. Implications of the findings, limitations of this study and avenues for further research are examined.
... In line with the notion of humor being relevant for sexual selection and indicating underlying qualities, one might expect that humor-related traits would be passed on genetically. Initial evidence from twin studies lends support to this view, as shared genetic variance explains humor appreciation to an extent that cannot be traced to environmental influences (e.g., Weber, Ruch, Riemann, Spinath, & Angleitner, 2014; see also Kaufman et al., 2008). Finally, positive relationships among intelligence, creativity, and humor abilities (i.e., producing humorous content) and their unique relationships with mating success support SST (e.g., Greengross & Miller, 2011). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
A good (sense of) humor is among the most frequently desired qualities in potential short- and long-term partners, and numerous studies found humor to be an important characteristic that people seek in close others. This entry gives a short overview both on why humor is considered to be among the most attractive traits and also on the role of sex differences, from a theoretical and an empirical view.
... In line with these findings, there is evidence that the phenotypic positive correlations between humor styles and trait emotional intelligence (comprising a factor of well-being which contains the facets happiness, optimism, and self-esteem) were mainly based on correlated genetic and nonshared environmental factors (Vernon et al., 2009). Weber et al. (2014) subjected a sample of 135 monozygotic and 60 dizygotic adult twins to the 3 WD Humor Test (Ruch, 1992). The latter assesses the perceived funniness and aversiveness of incongruity-resolution humor, nonsense humor, and sexual humor. ...
Chapter
We provide an overview on research on the association between humor and well-being and comment on methodological issues in this line of research. Overall, findings are mixed; most robust findings point to an association with greater pain tolerance. Research conducted within the field of positive psychology shows a promising path for future research with a particular focus on humor-based positive psychology interventions.
Article
Full-text available
We tested the hypothesis that group norms would have an effect on humor appreciation, specifically on ingroup disparaging humor. In this study (N = 195), participants were exposed to two humor conditions (neutral or ingroup disparaging humor) and to two group norms regarding humor appreciation (favoring or rejecting). Favoring group norm had a direct effect on the funniness scores. Moreover, an interaction effect of group norm and type of humor was found on the humor appreciation. When the group norm was rejecting, appreciation of the two different types of humor was different, whereas in the favoring group norm, no statistically significant differences were observed. Additionally, for the disparaging humor exposure, a favoring group norm promoted a greater acceptation of the stereotypical characteristics presented in the disparaging humor as realistic and representative of the ingroup. These results suggest that group norms act as important contextual information that influences disparaging humor appreciation. Keywords: humor appreciation, group norms, disparaging humor, ingroup
Article
Full-text available
It was hypothesized that sensation seeking (SS) is able to predict both the structure and content of jokes and cartoons. Five hypotheses were derived and tested in two samples from Spain and Germany comprising a total of 434 participants. The basic pattern of correlations was replicated for the two samples, and for the different measures of humor appreciation (3-WD, EAHU) and sensation seeking (AISS, SSS). Experience Seeking and Novelty were predictive of low appreciation of incongruity-resolution humor and high appreciation of nonsense humor. Disinhibition and Intensity were positively correlated with funniness of sexual, black, man-disparagement and woman-disparagement humor, and negatively with their aversiveness. When the structure variance from the content categories was removed, the correlations between appreciation of humor contents and sensation seeking increased. This confirmed that structure and content have to be separated both theoretically and empirically in studies of appreciation of content categories.
Article
The research is based on a model of humor appreciation that was developed thirty years ago by means of a three-mode factor analysis (Ruch, Zeitschrift für Differentielle und Diagnostische Psychologie 2: 253–273, 1981). In this study 110 adults rated 48 jokes on 5 criteria. Based on factor analysis a model of humor appreciation was derived that is composed of a classification of jokes and cartoons and of basic dimensions of responses to humor. Both content and structure contributes to individual differences in humor and two structural dimensions (i. e., incongruity-resolution, nonsense) and one content dimension (sexual humor) need to be distinguished. Jokes and cartoons of the incongruity-resolution humor category are characterized by punch lines in which the surprising incongruity can be resolved. The common element in this type of humor is that the recipient first discovers an incongruity which is then resolvable upon consideration of information available elsewhere in the joke or cartoon. Nonsense humor also has a surprising or incongruous punch line, but the punch line may 1) provide no resolution at all, 2) provide a partial resolution (leaving an essential part of the incongruity unresolved), or 3) actually create new absurdities or incongruities. The responses to humor seem to be two-dimensional, as factors of funniness (representing all positive responses) and aversiveness (representing the negative responses). Thus, maximal appreciation of jokes and cartoons consists of high funniness and low aversiveness; while minimal appreciation occurs, if the joke is not considered funny but is found aversive. However, a joke can also be considered not funny but be far from being aversive; or it can make one laugh although there are certain annoying aspects.
Article
Freudian (1905 Wien; Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewuβten. Deuticke) and Salience (Goldstein, Suls and Anthony, 1972; The Psychology of Humor. Academic Press, New York) theory make opposite predictions about the effects of attitudes to sex and sexual behaviour on appreciation of sex humour. Male and female students (N=115) answered a questionnaire of attitudes toward sex, a sexual behaviour inventory (Eysenck, 1976; Sex and Personality. Open Books, London) and a humour test. The results generally supported a positive correlation between appreciation of sex humour and the sex scales (sexual libido, satisfaction, experience and pleasure), although the resulting pattern was very complex. Separation of sex humour according to the jokes structure yielded different predictor patterns. Funniness of humour based on nonsense correlated most frequently and most highly with the sex scales libido, experiences and pleasure. Low sexual satisfaction, low permissiveness, and prudishness were correlated with aversiveness of all types of humour. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that these variables are better predictors of enjoyment of sexual humour than the more general factors of conservatism and toughmindedness (T) which turned out to be potent predictors in a recent study (Ruch and Hehl, 1986; Person. individ. Diff.7, 861–874). It turned out that the predictive sex scales were located on the toughmindedness axis and were thus as predictive of sex humour as T itself. A refinement of the salience hypothesis was undertaken.