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Men's Sense of Humor and Women's Responses to Courtship Solicitations: An Experimental Field Study

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Abstract

Producing humor might function as a fitness indicator associated with greater desirability during dating selection. A male confederate in a bar was instructed to tell (or not tell) funny jokes to two other male confederates. A few minutes later, when the second of two male confederates left, the first male confederate asked a female who was near his table and who had heard the funny jokes for her phone number. The previous expression of humor was associated with greater compliance with the male confederate's request and with a higher positive evaluation. The possible effects of humor are discussed from an evolutionary perspective.
... On 60 different occasions, three men sat at an outdoor table near a bar next to a young woman sitting alone. One of the three men then started telling jokes, while the two others laughed (Guéguen, 2010). ...
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(from the chapter) Humor plays an important role in mate choice, a role in which males and females are not equal partakers. Men and women view humor differently, and their motivations, experiences, usage, and consumption of humor are not the same. These differences might be best understood in light of sexual selection theory and by looking at the distinct evolutionary forces that shaped the psychological adaptations of men and women. Humor and laughter are powerful displays enjoyed daily by people all over the world. There are many mysteries yet to be unlocked regarding the origin and uses of humor, but it is clear that humor has strong evolutionary roots. The data presented here support the view that humor is sexual selected and a fitness indicator. Differences in humor production ability and humor appreciation do not seem to be random, and knowing that someone has a great sense of humor tells us something about that person, far beyond his or her humor ability. Evidence suggests that humor is a sexually dimorphic trait, and humor production is an overt manifestation of intelligence that increases mate value, especially in men. Humor could have evolved as part of mutual, sex-specific selection, where men's and women's humor production, uses, preferences, motivations, perceptions, and influences vary. Women seek males with a sense of humor and place greater importance on finding a mate with a sense of humor, a trail that is highly attractive for them. Men, on the other hand, try to produce high-quality humor to attract women, while women's humor creativity does little to attract men. Women's laughter signals their romantic interest in a man, while men's laughter does not. Humor serves many other functions in our daily lives, and while the data does support the view that humor production is a sexually selected trait, it does not necessarily exclude other explanations, evolutionary or not, for humor's origin, function, and uses. Humor offers a strong reward system, and supernormal stimuli tickle our desire for a good laugh all the time. Other complementary explanations could be in place, and future studies will help fill some of the gaps in empirical data on the subject. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved) (chapter)
... People strongly desire romantic partners who have a good sense of humor (Boxer, Noonan, & Whelan, 2015; Sprecher & Regan, 2002). This preference appears cross-culturally (Lippa, 2007 ) and is supported by both laboratory ( McGee & Shevlin, 2009) and field studies (Guéguen, 2010). Why humor holds such wide appeal has been considered from multiple perspectives. ...
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Not all humor is the same, yet little is known about the appeal of specific humor styles in romantic initiation. The current experimental study addresses this gap by investigating how romantic motives (short-term or long-term) affect individuals’ anticipated use of, and response to, positive humor and negative humor. Heterosexual participants (n = 224) imagined the pursuit of either a desired short-term or long-term relationship, indicated the extent to which they would produce positive and negative humor, and reported how their own interest would change in response to the imaginary target’s use of positive or negative humor. Results revealed that individuals are strategic in their humor production as a function of relational motives. Individuals produced positive humor in both contexts but limited their use of negative humor when pursuing a long-term relationship. The target’s positive humor increased individuals’ attraction, especially women’s, and although negative humor boosted attraction, it did not boost attraction more for short-term than long-term relationships. Findings extend a trait-indicator model of humor and their implications are discussed in light of other theoretical perspectives.
... Men also prefer canned or formulaic humour more (Martin, 2014). An evolutionary perspective on gender differences in humour initiation claims that humour may have evolved to signal intelligence in a prospective mate, and thus that males are likely to advertise it as an attractive trait in mate selection (Gueguen, 2010; Miller, 2000). Indeed, studies of personal ads show that men are more likely to advertise an ability to make others laugh whereas women are more likely to indicate wanting someone to make them laugh (Martin, 2014). ...
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Finding something humorous is intrinsically rewarding and may facilitate emotion regulation, but what creates humour has been underexplored. The present experimental study examined humour generated under controlled conditions with varying social, affective, and cognitive factors. Participants listed five ways in which a set of concept pairs (e.g. MONEY and CHOCOLATE) were similar or different in either a funny way (intentional humour elicitation) or a "catchy" way (incidental humour elicitation). Results showed that more funny responses were produced under the incidental condition, and particularly more for affectively charged than neutral concepts, for semantically unrelated than related concepts, and for responses highlighting differences rather than similarities between concepts. Further analyses revealed that funny responses showed a relative divergence in output dominance of the properties typically associated with each concept in the pair (that is, funny responses frequently highlighted a property high in output dominance for one concept but simultaneously low in output dominance for the other concept); by contrast, responses judged not funny did not show this pattern. These findings reinforce the centrality of incongruity resolution as a key cognitive ingredient for some pleasurable emotional elements arising from humour and demonstrate how it may operate within the context of humour generation.
... On 60 different occasions, three men sat at an outdoor table near a bar next to a young woman sitting alone. One of the three men then started telling jokes, while the two others laughed (Guéguen, 2010). An observer noted whether the woman listened to the jokes and laughed. ...
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Humor is a universal social phenomena enjoyed daily by individuals in every culture in the world. There is little doubt that evolutionary forces played an important role in shaping humor, but the nature of humor adaptation is still debated. Sexual selection theory is presumed to play a central role in the evolution of humor, and growing evidence supports this view. Humor plays an important role in mate choice, and because of the asymmetry in reproduction costs for males and females, humor production and appreciation should be sexually dimorphic. Predictions based on sexual selection theory are largely met. Data show that humor production ability is more important for women when selecting a mate, while men want a woman that will appreciate and laugh at their humor. Studies on conversational humor and personal dating ads show that men try to advertise their humor creativity, while women evaluate men’s humor. Men also tend to initiate more humor, especially when other women are around, while women smile and laugh more overall and particularly when men are present. In addition, studies show that men are better, on average, than women at producing high-quality spontaneous humor and are generally more motivated to present their humor production ability. Producing a great sense of humor translates into mating success, and men are more likely to benefit from such high-quality humor ability. Humor production is also correlated with intelligence, especially verbal intelligence, and is partially heritable, lending support that humor serves as a mental fitness indicator.
... Even very early in relationship formation humor may be a benefit. Guéguen (2010) showed that men were more successful in getting women's phone numbers if they displayed humor when interacting with friends. One suggestion, based on an evolutionary model, is that humorousness is a fitness indicator associated with qualities like intelligence and creativity because these are skills needed to generate humor (Greengross & Miller, 2011), and data have supported the proposed link between humor production, intelligence, and mating success (Miller, 2000). ...
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Humor can be expressed in many ways, some of which may not be seen as displaying a good sense of humor or as being socially desirable. Using the Humor Styles Questionnaire to predict global ratings of sense of humor for oneself and for a romantic partner indicated that only adaptive humor styles were reliably related to sense of humor and that an affiliative style was the primary predictor. Behaviors associated with adaptive humor styles were judged as more socially desirable, with maladaptive humor uses being rated as clearly socially undesirable. In conclusion, a good sense of humor is not based solely on sharing humor and some styles of sharing humor are socially damaging. Future research needs to determine when maladaptive humor may be beneficial.
... A study of personal ads found that " women seek men who make them laugh, and men are anxious to comply with this request " (Provine, 2000, p. 34). An experimental field study in France recently demonstrated that women were three times more likely to divulge their phone numbers to a confederate suitor they overheard telling jokes compared to a confederate suitor who was not overheard producing humor (Guéguen, 2010 ). Displaying humor appears to increase men's but not women's attractiveness on the mating market. ...
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Evolutionary psychology (EP) and comedian Chris Rock have both grown increasingly prominent over the past quarter-century. EP has blossomed because of its unique ability to explore humans' universal nature. Rock's stand-up routines have vaulted him into the pantheon of comedic talents because, intentionally or not, his comedy is based on a sophisticated appreciation and invocation of humans' evolved psychology. Conventional wisdom and recent EP research suggest that “something is funny because it's true.” This perspective on humor rings especially true in Rock's routines. Much of Rock's riffs on sex and marriage ring true and hence funny with his audiences because he deftly evokes their awareness of evolved sex differences in human mating strategies. Popular culture such as Rock's comedy can provide a window into human nature. I illustrate the intersection of EP and popular culture by unpacking the evolutionary theory and empirical evidence underlying 22 verbatim bits on human mating from Rock's five HBO comedy specials. Incorporating Rock's outrageously funny, theoretically sound, and empirically supported perspectives on sex and marriage into discussions of the primary literature is a sure-fire way to grab young people's attention and make memorable the myriad ways that sex differences stem from asymmetrical obligatory parental investment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Using humor, being funny, and having a good sense of humor are often reported as desirable qualities. However, little attention has been paid to possible differences in responses to humor reflecting affiliative as opposed to aggressive motivations. In evaluating a stranger, when examples of affiliative and aggressive humor were presented as the stranger’s preferred humor, aggressive humor led to more negative impressions (Study 1). To further explore the impact of humor reflecting affiliative versus aggressive motivations, participants were exposed to equally funny videotapes representing the two humor styles (Study 2). Women’s reported affective experiences varied across the humor styles, but men’s did not. Women and men rated the affiliative video as being more positive than negative, but no differences in the qualities were found for the aggressive video. Results across the two studies demonstrate the importance of considering not just the funniness of humor efforts, but also the social motives conveyed by the humor. Given the complexity of responses to humor, additional research is needed to better understand the contexts within which being funny might have social benefits versus social costs.
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Humor tends to predict romantic attraction, but does the style in which it is communicated matter? This study uses experimental methods to test the effects of positive and negative humor styles on short-term and long-term romantic interest. The authors randomly assigned 251 participants to read 1 of 4 relationship initiation vignettes depicting either an affiliative or aggressive humor style. Participants reported their short-term and long-term interest and made judgments of the relationship initiator's competence and warmth. Results support a fitness indicator model of humor style's role in relationship initiation; positive styles were preferred for long-term relationships while competence and warmth inferences predicted long-term attraction. The findings are discussed within the broader context of mate selection goals and challenges.
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Most researchers interested in mate preference have focused on the desires of adult men and women. Few empirical investigations have been conducted on the preferences of adolescent boys and girls, despite the fact that this developmental period represents a time of awakening romantic and sexual interest. The authors asked 46 teenage boys and girls (average age = 15.09 years) to indicate their preferences for various characteristics in an ideal long-term romantic or short-term sexual partner (randomly assigned). Both sexes emphasized attributes related to physical appeal (e.g., attractive physical appearance, sexy appearance) and sexual drive (e.g., sexual passion, high sex drive, sexual responsiveness) when evaluating a casual sexual partner. Conversely, participants focused more upon intellect and other mentally appealing attributes (e.g., intelligence, humor) when considering a romantic partner. No sex differences were found, suggesting that teenage boys and girls share a similar conception of the “perfect” partner.
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To identify the universal dimensions of long-term mate preferences, we used an archival database of preference ratings provided by several thousand participants from three dozen cultures [Buss, D. M. (1989)]. Participants from each culture responded to the same 18-item measure. Statistical procedures ensured that ratings provided by men and women were weighted equally, and that ratings provided by participants from each culture were weighted equally. We identified four universal dimensions: Love vs. Status/Resources; Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health; Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for Home/Children; and Sociability vs. Similar Religion. Several standard sex differences replicated across cultures, including women’s greater valuation of social status and men’s greater valuation of physical attractiveness. We present culture-specific ratings on the universal dimensions across-sex and between-sex to facilitate future cross-cultural work on human mating psychology.
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Both men and women prefer someone with a “good sense of humor” as a relationship partner. However, two recent studies have shown that men are not attracted to funny women, suggesting the sexes use the phrase good sense of humor differently. To investigate this question, we measured the importance participants placed on a partner's production of humor vs. receptivity to their own humor. Men emphasized the importance of their partners' receptivity to their own humor, whereas women valued humor production and receptivity equally. In a second task, participants chose whether they preferred a person who only produced humor or a person who only appreciated their own humor for several types of relationships. Women preferred those who produced humor for all types of relationships, whereas men preferred those who were receptive to their own humor, particularly for sexual relationships. Our results suggest that sexual selection may have operated on men's and women's preferences during humorous interaction in dramatically different ways.
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Dating is experienced by most adolescents in our society as a prelude to mate selection. Three hundred and fifty-four white and black youth were studied to measure their dating-mating choices. Implications for teachers and practitioners, based on racial and gender differences, as well as perceived peer group influences are discussed.
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Sociocultural pressures on women to be thin and physically attractive assume many forms today. When these external pressures are combined with the excessive demands many women already place on themselves in these areas, chronic dieting, and ultimately binge eating, often result (Agras & Kirkley, 1986; Hsu, 1989). The present study investigated the extent to which single women currently were receiving the message that physical attractiveness in general, and weight in particular, were crucial factors in being selected as a dating partner. A total of 283 male and 231 female personal ads from a singles' magazine were examined. Twenty-eight categories were created to label the qualities designated as desirable in a partner. As predicted, physical attractiveness was the characteristic most frequently sought by males (56.9%). Significantly fewer females (26.4%) required this in a prospective partner. Furthermore, requests for a thin partner were made by significantly more males (33.6%) than females (2.2%). Sex differences also were detected for the quality sought most often by females: interpersonal understanding. The results demonstrated that males still attributed greater importance to physical attractiveness and thinness than did females when selecting a date. Possible explanations for these different emphases were offered, and features that distinguished the physical attractiveness seekers from others were explored. The link with today's high rate of eating disorders among women was reappraised.
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The question as to what type of individual we prefer in a romantic partner has stimulated a long history of research, with much of the present debate centering around the issue of the sex differences in partner preferences. In the studies described in this paper, two groups of participants completed a variety of different questionnaire schedules indicating their preferences for a partner. In study 1, 216 single students demonstrated a prevailing desire for a kind, considerate, and honest partner who displayed a keen sense of humor. Consistent with the hypothesis, there were no clear sex differences evident in these results. In study 2, 76 dating agency members completed a similar schedule examining partner preferences. Here again, preferences were similar across the sexes, although men preferred the submissive and introverted partner and stressed the importance of physical appearance in a mate. The general discussion considers the implications of these findings in the light of previous research on partner preferences.