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Humor in Romantic Contexts: Do Men Participate and Women Evaluate?


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Several lines of research illustrate that humor plays a pivotal role in relationship initiation. The current article applies sexual selection theory to argue that humor production is a fitness indicator, allowing men to transmit information tacitly about their underlying qualities. And whereas prior research has emphasized women's appreciation of humor as a signal of interest, the focus here is on how women evaluate prospective suitors' humorous offerings. Two studies, including an ecologically valid study of online dating advertisements, provided evidence for men's production and women's evaluation of humor in romantic contexts. A third study revealed that women's evaluations of potential mates' humor are predictive of their romantic interest. Moreover, this article shows that preferences for and perceptions of humor are associated with preferences for and perceptions of intelligence and warmth, consistent with the argument that one function of humor is as a fitness indicator that provides information about underlying mate quality.
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Personality and Social Psychology
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0146167211405343
published online 26 April 2011Pers Soc Psychol Bull
Christopher J. Wilbur and Lorne Campbell
Humor in Romantic Contexts: Do Men Participate and Women Evaluate?
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Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
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and Social Psychology, Inc
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DOI: 10.1177/0146167211405343
Men will confess to treason, murder, arson, false teeth, or a
wig. How many of them will own up to a lack of humor?
Frank Moore Colby
American historian and essayist Frank Moore Colby’s face-
tious remark underscores a curious truth concerning human
nature: People keenly desire that others perceive them as a
humorous person. Indeed, one survey revealed that 94% of
respondents claimed to possess an above-average sense of
humor (Lefcourt & Martin, 1986). Why is conveying
humor—a seemingly superfluous trait—so vital? Among
other functions, humor has been implicated in promoting
mental health (e.g., Galloway & Cropley, 1999), softening
the edge of critical remarks (e.g., Keltner, Young, Heery,
Oemig, & Monarch, 1998), and facilitating communication
within romantic relationships (e.g., Campbell, Martin, &
Ward, 2008). In the present research, we apply sexual selec-
tion theory (Darwin, 1871/1981) to understand the function
of humor in romantic relationship initiation, describing how
men produce humor to signal information about their under-
lying traits and how women evaluate humorous offerings to
make prudent romantic decisions.
Prior research adopting a similar perspective has focused
on women’s humor appreciation, which entails overt displays
of enjoying another’s humorous attempts, such as laugh-
ing and compliments (Bressler, Martin, & Balshine, 2006).
Humor appreciation can be feigned, however, and might be
displayed for various reasons even when an individual does
not find the humorist to be particularly amusing. In con-
trast, humor evaluation entails deliberative judgment, which
may or may not be explicitly articulated, as to whether a tar-
get is indeed amusing. The present research complements
the work of Bressler et al. (2006) by examining whether
women evaluate the humorous offerings of male suitors and
whether these evaluations carry implications for their rela-
tionship decisions. A second contribution of the present
research is the demonstration of systematic associations
between humor and traits desired in romantic partners,
such as intelligence and warmth. Support for these obser-
vations bolsters a sexual selection account of humor in rela-
tionship initiation.
Darwin (1871/1981) advanced sexual selection theory to
explain how some traits, seemingly superfluous or even det-
rimental to survival, could persist by virtue of their appeal to
prospective mates. Members of the sex that invests less
heavily in offspring typically compete with one another for
mating opportunities, either directly (intrasexual competition)
and CampbellPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
1University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada
Corresponding Author:
Christopher J. Wilbur, Department of Psychology, University of Western
Ontario, London, ON, N6A 5C2, Canada
Humor in Romantic Contexts: Do Men
Participate and Women Evaluate?
Christopher J. Wilbur1 and Lorne Campbell1
Several lines of research illustrate that humor plays a pivotal role in relationship initiation. The current article applies sexual
selection theory to argue that humor production is a fitness indicator, allowing men to transmit information tacitly about
their underlying qualities. And whereas prior research has emphasized women’s appreciation of humor as a signal of interest,
the focus here is on how women evaluate prospective suitors’ humorous offerings. Two studies, including an ecologically
valid study of online dating advertisements, provided evidence for men’s production and women’s evaluation of humor in
romantic contexts. A third study revealed that women’s evaluations of potential mates’ humor are predictive of their romantic
interest. Moreover, this article shows that preferences for and perceptions of humor are associated with preferences for and
perceptions of intelligence and warmth, consistent with the argument that one function of humor is as a fitness indicator that
provides information about underlying mate quality.
attraction, humor, mate preferences, relationship initiation, sexual selection
Received September 27, 2010; revision accepted February 3, 2011
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2 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin XX(X)
or indirectly by displaying evidence of their quality to poten-
tial mates (intersexual competition). Often, the traits or
behaviors required to compete successfully are costly in
other ways (e.g., require substantial physiological resources,
pose a risk of negative outcomes), and the ability to with-
stand such costs signals to potential partners that the signaler
is a particularly high-quality mate. To illustrate, unique to
several species of bowerbirds is a puzzling behavior: the
construction by males of elaborate nests (bowers) adorned
with colorful decorations in the form of shells, leaves, flow-
ers, and so on. Tremendous time and effort are invested in
this activity that has no apparent survival utility. Yet males
who can successfully construct and defend their ostentatious
creations are chosen more frequently as mates. The ability to
construct and defend bowers is predictive of immunocompe-
tence, and discerning females thus rely on bower-holding as
a marker of males’ underlying quality (Borgia, Egeth, Uy, &
Patricelli, 2004).
In a similar vein, Miller (2000a, 2000b, 2007) conjec-
tured that several human virtues, including humor, evolved
via sexual selection as fitness indicators, which encompass
markers of genetic quality or traits associated with being a
good partner or parent. According to Miller, humor is a
prime candidate as a reliable indicator of desirable underly-
ing traits, such as intelligence and warmth, because profi-
cient attempts at humor demand cognitive flexibility, theory
of mind, and communicative skill. Indeed, showcasing a
sense of humor is rated as the single most effective mate
attraction tactic (Buss, 1988). Simply describing one’s pur-
ported qualities offers little information to prospective part-
ners because without any substantiating evidence, such
boasts are nondiagnostic. In the present research, we test
whether humor functions as a fitness indicator by examining
whether men produce humor in romantic contexts and whether
women evaluate humor in romantic contexts. Moreover, we
assess relations between humor production and underlying
traits. We argue that humor is a preferred quality in romantic
partners to the extent that it signals the possession of funda-
mentally important traits.
Miller (2007) suggests that the relatively unusual human
predilection (compared to other mammals) toward biparental
care typically results in sex similarities in the display of fit-
ness indicators. Variance in reproductive success is higher
among men, however, and consequently, men might adver-
tise their qualities more vigorously than women. Indeed,
Griskevicius, Cialdini, and Kenrick (2006) found that men’s
creative outputs were influenced by activation of both short-
term and long-term mating mind-sets, whereas women’s cre-
ative outputs were influenced only when particularly primed
to attract an explicitly committed mate. In research specifi-
cally examining the role of humor in romantic attraction,
Bressler and his colleagues (Bressler & Balshine, 2006;
Bressler et al., 2006) observed that humorous men are pre-
ferred by women as romantic partners but that humorous
women are not especially preferred by men. Instead, men
value a prospective mate’s receptivity to their own humor.
We extend the work of Bressler and colleagues by showing
that women carefully evaluate men’s humor production
because humor production signals information about under-
lying traits commonly desired in romantic partners.
Recently, Li et al. (2009) proposed that humor serves the
purpose of expressing interest in developing or maintaining
a relationship—humor is an interest indicator rather than a
fitness indicator. The fitness indicator model suggests that
women’s attraction develops in response to men’s humor
displays. The interest indicator model suggests that attrac-
tion precedes humor displays and that both men and women
use humor to signal their attraction. Li et al. demonstrated
that men and women asked to imagine being attracted to a
target reported a greater propensity to produce and respond
to humor in interaction with the target. A second study
revealed that men and women rate humorous comments
made by attractive targets as funnier than identical com-
ments made by less attractive targets. People have strongly
positive explicit and implicit responses to physically attrac-
tive individuals (Sritharan, Heilpern, Wilbur, & Gawronski,
2010), so it is not surprising that both men and women use
humor production and appreciation to convey their interest
in especially attractive targets. A third study found that
third-party observers perceive men’s humor initiation and
women’s positive responses to humor as indicative of
romantic interest.
As Li et al. (2009) make clear, the fitness indicator model
and the interest indicator model explain different, but com-
plementary, roles of humor in the process of relationship ini-
tiation. Presently, we adopt a fitness indicator perspective
that is particularly relevant early in the impression formation
process, before substantial attraction has developed and
when physical attractiveness may not be readily discernible.
Consistent with the fitness indicator function, Li et al. noted
that humorous comments enhanced the appeal of physically
unattractive targets and that positive reactions to humor were
influenced by perceptions of warmth implied by the humor.
The interest indicator model emphasizes that both men
and women should equally initiate and respond to humor
after developing an interest in forging a relationship. Sexual
selection theory, from which the fitness indicator model is
derived, implies sex differences in relationship initiation
strategies premised on women’s greater minimum obligatory
investment in children (Trivers, 1972). As mentioned previ-
ously, men’s reproductive success varies greatly, and conse-
quently, men tend to apply more overt relationship initiation
strategies than women, including physical approach of pro-
spective partners and initiation of physical contact (e.g.,
Clark, Shaver, & Abrahams, 1999; Finkel & Eastwick,
2009). Interestingly, these sex differences are observed in
contemporary dating contexts as well: Men, compared to
women, express greater desire for further contact with part-
ners met in speed dating events (e.g., Fisman, Iyengar,
Kamenica, & Simonson, 2006; Kurzban & Weeden, 2005).
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Wilbur and Campbell 3
Our framework synthesizes sexual selection theory and
the interest indicator model by proposing that humorous
productions are used to indicate romantic interest, but pre-
dominantly by men as a means of advertising information
about their underlying qualities during initial courtship.
Women evaluate these humorous offerings carefully in ser-
vice of selecting the best possible suitor. The present
research borrows from the work of Bressler and his col-
leagues (Bressler & Balshine, 2006; Bressler et al., 2006),
but whereas they stressed women’s signaling of interest via
appreciation of men’s humor, our efforts are geared toward
adducing evidence that women evaluate men’s humorous
productions. Women should not report indiscriminate ten-
dencies to appreciate the humor of all possible suitors;
rather, women should be attuned to the quality of prospec-
tive partners’ humorous offerings to select the best possible
mate. Provocative neuroimaging data support such a dis-
tinction: When observing humorous stimuli, left prefrontal
cortex and right nucleus accumbens activation is stronger in
women than in men (Azim, Mobbs, Jo, Menon, & Reiss,
2005). The left prefrontal cortex is implicated in language
comprehension and in decoding the semantic meaning of
stimuli; the right nucleus accumbens mediates the experi-
ence of reward, particularly when unexpected, as are the
punchlines to jokes. These neuroimaging data imply, then,
that women recruit resources for making sense of jokes and
experience reward from viewing particularly amusing stim-
uli, processes consistent with evaluative responses.
Intelligence and warmth are two traits that are particularly
valued in romantic partners (e.g., Evans & Brase, 2007; Li,
Bailey, Kenrick, & Linsenmeier, 2002), and using humor to
convey these attributes might be especially effective for tac-
itly advertising mate quality. Although some studies (Bressler
& Balshine, 2006; Lundy, Tan, & Cunningham, 1998) have
found negative relations between perceptions of humor and
perceptions of intelligence, other studies have found positive
relations between perceptions of humor and perceptions of
intelligence, as well as between perceptions of humor and
perceptions of traits related to warmth (Cann & Calhoun,
2001). Although a consensual definition for humor remains
elusive, agreement largely exists on two key dimensions:
(a) the production of humor involves the creation of incon-
gruity in the perceiver’s mind, which requires a nonobvious
resolution, typically resulting in a mirthful response, and
(b) humor production is often, though not always, meant to
convey a good-natured disposition (Martin, 2007). This defi-
nition implies that humor can simultaneously connote one’s
intelligence (i.e., the ability to create an incongruity requir-
ing a clever resolution) and one’s warmth (i.e., displaying a
good-natured disposition).
We hypothesized that men are inclined to produce humor
to attract prospective romantic partners, whereas women are
inclined to evaluate these humorous offerings. To gather
evidence for our hypothesis, we conducted three studies.
With Study 1, we aimed to document the expected sex
differences in humor use. With Study 2, we intended to
show that these sex differences are evident in an ecologi-
cally valid setting by analyzing profiles from an online dat-
ing website. In Study 2, we also explored the associations of
humor with underlying traits by testing whether offers of
and requests for humor were systematically linked to offers
of and requests for intelligence and warmth. In Study 3, we
created fictitious online dating profiles that opened with a
joke to seek direct evidence that women’s (but not men’s)
evaluation of a prospective partner’s humor carries implica-
tions for their romantic interest. In Study 3, we also exam-
ined relations between humor evaluations and perceptions
of targets’ intelligence and warmth.
Study 1
With Study 1, we sought to provide initial evidence for dif-
ferences between men and women in how they use humor in
getting to know prospective romantic partners. Specifically,
we predicted that men would be more inclined toward using
humor production as a strategy for attracting prospective
romantic partners, whereas women would be more inclined
toward evaluating a suitor’s humorous offerings. To this end,
a large sample of men and women reported on the types of
humor strategies they would employ in service of getting to
know a prospective romantic partner.
Participants. Four hundred ninety-eight introductory psy-
chology students (320 women, 178 men) at a large Canadian
university participated in Study 1 in exchange for course
credit. The majority of participants (70.2%) identified them-
selves as White, 12.9% of participants identified themselves
as Asian, and 16.9% of participants identified themselves as
being of another ethnicity. Participants ranged in age from 17
to 49 years old, with a median age of 18 years old.
Procedure. Participants completed Study 1 as part of a
larger online mass testing questionnaire. Participants first
read a paragraph asking them to imagine trying to get to
know a prospective romantic partner. This paragraph also
instructed participants to think about the sorts of strate-
gies they might use in this context. After reading the para-
graph, participants rated the likelihood of using several
humor strategies in service of getting to know a potential
romantic partner.
Questionnaire. The strategy questionnaire contained 22
statements relevant to humor production (e.g., “I would
make a lot of jokes”), humor evaluation (“I would assess
how good s/he is at telling jokes compared to other people I
know”), and humor appreciation (“I would tell him/her that
s/he was funny”). Participants reported the likelihood of
using each of these strategies on a 7-point Likert-type scale
(1 = not all likely to do, 4 = somewhat likely to do, 7 =
extremely likely to do).
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4 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin XX(X)
To provide evidence for the three-factor structure of
this questionnaire, the 22 items were subjected to an
exploratory principal axis factor analysis, specifying three
factors, with an oblique promax rotation. Inspection of the
scree plot indicated that a three-factor solution was a rea-
sonable fit to the data. The first factor included 6 items
designed to assess humor appreciation. The second factor
included 6 items designed to assess humor production.
The third factor included 4 items designed to assess humor
evaluation (all loadings ≥.42 on the intended factor and
≤.28 on the remaining factors). Five items were not included
in creating the subscales because they exhibited relatively
low loadings on all factors or substantial cross-loadings
on more than one factor. An additional item was not
included, as it loaded on a factor for which it was not
theoretically intended. See Table 1 for all scale items and
factor loadings.
The six items loading on the humor production factor
were averaged to create humor production scores (α = .86).
The four items loading on the humor evaluation factor were
averaged to create humor evaluation scores (α = .73). The
six items loading on the humor appreciation factor were
averaged to create humor appreciation scores (α = .83).
The correlations of humor production with humor evalua-
tion and humor appreciation were .32 and .69, respectively.
The correlation of humor evaluation with humor apprecia-
tion was .38.
To ascertain whether men and women differed in their rela-
tive uses of humor production, humor evaluation, and humor
appreciation, we conducted a 2 × 3 mixed model ANOVA,
with participant sex (male, female) as a between-subjects
factor and humor facet (production, evaluation, apprecia-
tion) as a within-subjects factor. Consistent with our pre-
diction, a significant two-way interaction emerged between
participant sex and humor facet, F(2, 992) = 21.37, p < .001
(see Figure 1). We performed planned comparisons between
men’s and women’s humor subscale scores for each humor
facet separately to probe further the nature of the observed
interaction. As predicted, men (M = 5.34, SD = 1.03) reported
higher levels of humor production than women (M = 5.02,
SD = 1.09), F(1, 496) = 9.99, p = .002, d = .29.
Also as predicted, women (M = 3.97, SD = 1.29) reported
higher levels of humor evaluation than men (M = 3.58, SD =
1.28), F(1, 496) = 10.22, p = .001, d = .30. Although not explic-
itly predicted, consistent with past research, women (M = 5.19,
SD = 1.00) reported higher levels of humor appreciation than
men (M = 4.95, SD = .98), F(1, 496) = 6.66, p = .01, d = .24.
Table 1. Pattern Matrix Factor Loading for the Humor Strategies Questionnaire Items
I would compliment him/her on his/her witty remarks. .56 .06 .05
I would act amused by his/her jokes. .43 .16 .00
I would tell him/her that he/she was funny. .75 −.06 −.01
I would laugh when he/she said something funny to encourage him/her to
keep it up.
.74 −.01 .07
I would laugh at his/her jokes. .85 −.04 −.19
I would show my appreciation for his/her humor. .71 .10 −.05
I would tell some funny stories. .18 .59 −.15
I would try to act in an amusing manner. .14 .63 −.03
I would make witty remarks. .06 .59 .07
I would be really comical. −.17 .87 .14
I would try to make him/her laugh. .28 .61 −.22
I would make a lot of jokes. −.04 .75 .07
I would look to see if other people find him/her to be funny. .20 −.06 .42
I would try to determine if his/her jokes seem to flow spontaneously
rather than being forced.
−.09 .03 .66
I would assess how good he/she is at telling jokes compared to other
people I know.
.12 −.08 .67
I would attempt to evaluate how naturally amusing he/she is. .15 −.02 .66
Note: The first six items listed assess humor appreciation; the next six items assess humor production; the next four items assess humor evaluation. Load-
ings on the relevant factor are in boldface.
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Wilbur and Campbell 5
The results of Study 1 suggest that men are more inclined
than women to produce humor when getting to know a pro-
spective romantic partner and that women are more inclined
than men to evaluate the humor of potential mates. Women,
compared to men, also exhibited a greater likelihood of
humor appreciation.
Study 1 focused on men’s and women’s self-reports of
how they might behave when interacting with a potential
romantic partner, but these data cannot speak to whether sex-
differentiated humor strategies unfold in ecologically valid
mating contexts. To address this issue, we undertook Study 2
with the aim of providing evidence that sex differences in
humor production and humor evaluation are apparent among
people seeking actual romantic partners in an online dating
environment. Recent surveys indicate that more than 800 dat-
ing websites exist and that in the United States alone, 3 million
users have developed long-term relationships with part-
ners met through dating websites (Sritharan et al., 2010).
Accordingly, assessing the strategies of online dating users
is a particularly timely endeavor. Study 2 also provided an
opportunity to examine associations among humor, intelli-
gence, and warmth.
Study 2
Study 2 involved an analysis of online dating profiles to
uncover predicted sex differences in humor production and
humor evaluation in an ecologically valid context. We pre-
dicted that men, in contrast to women, would more fre-
quently offer—or advertise, in other words—a propensity
for humor production. On the other hand, we predicted that
women, compared to men, would more frequently request a
partner with a penchant for humor production. To test these
predictions, we examined a large number of dating profiles
gleaned from an online dating service and coded them for
instances of humor production offers and humor production
requests. We also examined associations of humor produc-
tion offers and requests with offers and requests for intelli-
gence and warmth.
In Study 2, we distinguished humor production from the
broader sense of humor construct, a distinction that is often
conflated in research on humor. A sense of humor does not
necessarily entail a proclivity to produce jokes but rather
comprises a worldview through which an individual sees the
lighter side of life, which in turn promotes coping with and
adapting to adverse circumstances (McGhee, 1979). As a
sense of humor is a pervasive, dispositional approach to life,
it is likely valued by both men and women. On the other
hand, humor production, as discussed previously, entails
acute attempts to invoke an amused response in another.
Humor production is an active means of advertising one’s
underlying qualities, and as men, compared to women, tend
to employ more direct strategies of relationship initiation
(e.g., Clark et al., 1999; Finkel & Eastwick, 2009), men
should also exhibit a greater tendency to offer humor pro-
duction in online dating environments.
We examined dating profiles posted on the website lavalife
.com. Users of this website can create profiles to post in any
or all of the following sections: Dating, Relationship, and
Intimate Encounters. Given our interest in examining humor
preferences among potential relationship partners, we con-
fined our search to profiles in the Relationship section.
Selection of profiles. By logging into an account created
for this study, the first author specified and saved search
criteria for profile age, Canadian city of residence, gender,
and language. This process resulted in 12 separate saved
searches: male profiles in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg,
London, Toronto, and Montreal, and female profiles in these
same six Canadian cities. All profiles described individuals
between 21 and 35 (inclusive) years of age and were writ-
ten in English. Research assistants were instructed to exam-
ine profiles from these saved searches and record the user
names of profiles containing a humor-related word or
phrase (from the list of humor production and sense of
humor phrases described in the Coding Procedure section).
One research assistant recorded user names for profiles
from Vancouver, London, and Montreal; a second research
assistant recorded user names for profiles from Calgary,
Winnipeg, and Toronto.
After the research assistants had generated the lists of
user names, the first author looked up the profiles by search-
ing the Lavalife website by user name and copied each user’s
written profile into one of two Microsoft Word documents
(Set 1 or Set 2) and assigned each a code number. In sum,
266 profiles (133 men, 133 women) were included in the
Likelihood of Use
Figure 1. Mean likelihood ratings of using different humor facets
in getting to know a prospective romantic partner (Study 1)
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6 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin XX(X)
documents, with each Canadian city being more or less
equally represented. Among the profiles for which ethnicity
was provided, 85.5% identified themselves as White; per-
centages of various other ethnic groups were small. The
median age was 29 years old, and mean age did not differ
between men and women. Photographs and demographic
information of the users were not included in the Word docu-
ments to eliminate bias introduced by these factors when
coding the profiles.
A second group of research assistants coded the profiles
for instances of humor production offers and requests, as well
as offers of and requests for other traits. Two coders were
provided with a document containing the written profiles of
individuals located in Vancouver, London, or Montreal (Set 1).
Two other coders were provided with a document contain-
ing the written profiles of individuals located in Calgary,
Winnipeg, or Toronto (Set 2).
Coding procedure. Coders read each written profile and
recorded on a form whether each of the following traits was
offered, requested, or both: humor production, general sense
of humor, attractiveness, status/resources, warmth/trustwor-
thiness, intelligence, and ambition. Coders were instructed to
record an offer or request as present only if key phrases
found in the profile matched those on a prespecified list and
only if those key phrases were written in such a way as to
imply a clear offer or request (e.g., “I am . . .” or “I want . . .”).
Humor production phrases included on the list were “amus-
ing,” “aspiring stand-up comic,” “can make me/you giggle,”
“can make me/you laugh,” “comical,” “funny,” “hilarious,”
“likes to make jokes,” and “witty.” General sense of humor
phrases included on the list were “doesn’t take self too seri-
ously,” “laughs at self,” “loves to laugh,” “sees lighter side
of life,” “has sense of humor.” If coders encountered a par-
ticular word or phrase not found on the list but thought the
word or phrase adequately represented one of the trait cat-
egories, they wrote that word or phrase on a designated line
on the coding form. If this word or phrase was the only
criterion for indicating a trait offer or request to be present,
the coder recorded the presence of that trait offer or request
as indeterminate.
Set 1. Seventy-eight profiles were coded separately by
two coders. Kappa, a measure of interrater agreement for
nominal variables, was computed for offers and requests of
each trait. To calculate a kappa coefficient, the nominal cat-
egories for one coder must be identical to the nominal cate-
gories for the other coder. For some variables, however, one
coder had coded some profiles as indeterminate, while the
other coder did not have any indeterminates for that variable.
For these variables, indeterminates were temporarily coded
as yes for interrater agreement analyses, and these analyses
were then repeated with indeterminates coded as no. For all
variables, interrater agreement was sufficiently high (all κs
between .51 and 1.00, all ps < .01). Given the high interrater
agreement and for the sake of efficiency, each coder coded
her own unique additional set of 25 profiles, thus resulting in
a grand sum of 128 coded profiles from Set 1.
Set 2. One hundred thirty-eight profiles were coded sepa-
rately by two coders. The resultant two SPSS data files were
merged into one, but unfortunately the original two files and
the hard copies of the completed code sheets were misplaced
before computing interrater agreement. Given the high inter-
rater agreement obtained for Set 1, however, we are confident
that interrater agreement for Set 2 would have been adequate.
Furthermore, the coding task in this study was straightfor-
ward—coders simply had to indicate whether specified words
were present or absent in the written profiles.
Resolving discrepancies. After coders had completed their
task, discrepancies were resolved through discussion with
the first author. For offers and requests coded as indetermi-
nate by both coders, a colleague was asked to read a list of
the indeterminates from Set 1 and another colleague was
asked to read a list of the indeterminates from Set 2, removed
from the context of the profile. The colleagues indicated
whether the indeterminate phrases exemplified their intended
categories, and the presence of offers and requests reflected
by these phrases was adjusted accordingly.
Chi-square tests of independence were conducted on humor
production offers and humor production requests separately to
test the hypothesis that men, compared to women, would more
frequently offer humor production whereas women, compared
to men, would more frequently request humor production.
Humor production offers. Men, compared to women, were
more likely to offer humor production, χ2(1, N = 266) = 3.95,
p = .047. As can be seen in Table 2, men offered humor pro-
duction more frequently, and women offered humor produc-
tion less frequently, than the statistically expected rates
assuming no sex differences. We calculated an odds ratio,
which equaled 1.77, meaning that men were 1.77 times more
likely to offer humor production than were women.
Humor production requests. Women, compared to men,
tended toward a greater likelihood of requesting humor pro-
duction, χ2(1, N = 266) = 3.68, p = .055. As can be seen in
Table 3, women requested humor production more frequently,
and men requested humor production less frequently, than the
statistically expected rates assuming no sex differences. We
Table 2. Numbers of Men and Women Who Did and Did Not
Offer Humor Production
Offered? Male profiles Female profiles Total
Yes 40 (33) 26 (33) 66
No 93 (100) 107 (100) 200
Total 133 133 266
Note: Expected counts are in parentheses.
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Wilbur and Campbell 7
again calculated an odds ratio, which equaled 1.78, meaning
that women were 1.78 times more likely to request humor
production than were men.
Association of humor production offers and humor production
requests. We also performed chi-square tests of independence
between humor production offers and humor production
requests to ascertain whether people who offered humor pro-
duction were also likely to request humor production. These
tests were performed separately for male and female pro-
files. For both male profiles, χ2(1, N = 133) = .919, p = .338,
and female profiles, χ2(1, N = 133) = 1.01, p = .316, humor
production offers were not systematically associated with
humor production requests. It thus appears that offering
humor production and requesting humor production are dis-
tinct, sex-differentiated strategies.
General sense of humor offers and requests. We also tested
whether men were more likely than women to offer a good
sense of humor more generally and whether women were
more likely than men to request a good sense of humor. Con-
cerning general sense of humor offers, men did not offer this
trait more frequently than did women, χ2(1, N = 266) = 1.62,
p = .204. Concerning general sense of humor requests,
women did not request this trait more frequently than did
men, χ2(1, N = 266) = 1.59, p = .207.
Associations of humor production with other traits. We per-
formed chi-square analyses to test whether humor produc-
tion offers and requests were systematically related to offers
of and requests for other traits (i.e., intelligence, attractive-
ness, status, ambition, and warmth), examining male and
female profiles separately.
Intriguingly, offers of humor production were associated
with offers of intelligence by both men, χ2(1, N = 133) = 8.27,
p = .004, and women, χ2(1, N = 133) = 5.26, p = .022,
such that profiles that offered humor production, compared
to those that did not, more frequently offered intelligence as
well. Similarly, requests for humor production were associ-
ated with requests for intelligence by both men, χ2(1, N = 133) =
10.17, p = .001, and women, χ2(1, N = 133) = 6.73, p = .009,
such that profiles that requested humor production, com-
pared to those that did not, more frequently requested intel-
ligence as well. In contrast, offers of a general sense of humor
were not associated with offers of intelligence by either
men, χ2(1, N = 133) = .110, p = .741, or women, χ2(1, N =
133) = .394, p = .530. Similarly, requests for a general
sense of humor were not associated with requests for intel-
ligence by either men, χ2(1, N = 133) = 1.31, p = .252, or
women, χ2(1, N = 133) = 2.67, p = .103. In fact, this trend
among women was that female profiles requesting a general
sense of humor less frequently requested intelligence than
the statistically expected rate.
Only a minority of other associations between humor pro-
duction and other traits emerged. Offers of humor production
were marginally associated with offers of attractiveness
among men only, χ2(1, N = 133) = 3.67, p = .055. Similarly,
requests for humor production were associated with requests
for attractiveness among men only, χ2(1, N = 133) = 5.54,
p = .019. Status requests and ambition offers and requests
yielded expected cell counts of less than five when testing
for associations with humor production. Associations
between humor production offers and status offers, between
humor production offers and warmth offers, and between
humor production requests and warmth requests, were non-
significant for both men and women, all χ2s ≤ 2.46, all
ps .117. The lack of associations between humor produc-
tion and warmth is particularly intriguing in that one might
reasonably expect humorous individuals to be characterized
by a degree of warmth. This stereotype, however, might more
appropriately characterize individuals with a generally cheer-
ful and positive disposition. Indeed, women (but not men)
who offered a general sense of humor more frequently offered
warmth, χ2(N = 133) = 9.49, p = .002, and men (but not
women) who requested a general sense of humor more fre-
quently requested warmth, χ2(N = 133) = 8.59, p = .003.
The findings of Study 2 uncover that men’s proclivity for
producing humor and women’s desire to seek humorous
partners are apparent in ecologically valid dating contexts.
Among profiles explicitly mentioning humor, men more
frequently advertised their willingness to produce humor; in
reciprocal fashion, women expressed a greater desire to
locate a humorous partner. These sex-differentiated strate-
gies are largely independent, as offers of and requests for
humor production were not systematically associated for
men or women. Although our predicted sex differences
emerged, the relative importance of humor in relationship
initiation might be questioned by recent findings showing
that humor is mentioned in fewer than 10% of newspaper
dating advertisements (De Backer, Braeckman, & Farinpour,
2008). Our argument is that humor production functions
more as a means than as an end—signaling the possession of
desired, more fundamentally important traits. In this way,
humor plays an implicit role in demonstrating mate quality
and consequently might not receive frequent explicit men-
tion as an offered or requested trait in and of itself.
In line with the above argument, offers of and requests
for humor production were associated with offers of and
Table 3. Numbers of Men and Women Who Did and Did Not
Request Humor Production
Requested? Male profiles Female profiles Total
Yes 23 (29.5) 36 (29.5) 59
No 110 (103.5) 97 (103.5) 207
Total 133 133 266
Note: Expected counts are in parentheses.
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8 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin XX(X)
requests for intelligence. Miller (2000a) surmised that
humor might have evolved as a fitness indicator, but prior
research supporting his claim (Bressler & Balshine, 2006;
Bressler et al., 2006) has generally taken this link as a given
rather than providing evidence for its existence. The present
study offers such evidence.
Whereas humor production was associated with intelli-
gence, women’s offers and men’s requests for a sense of
humor more broadly construed were systematically associ-
ated with women’s offers and men’s requests for warmth,
respectively. It might be that different facets of humor act as
signals of discrete underlying traits; for example, clever
jokes and witticisms might indicate an intelligent mind,
whereas a positive, amused outlook on life might indicate a
warm, upbeat disposition. We elaborate on the need to exam-
ine different types of humor in the General Discussion.
Interestingly, we observed a relation between humor pro-
duction and intelligence for both men’s and women’s offers
and requests. These findings suggest that both men’s and
women’s humor production can advertise underlying mental
quality (see Griskevicius et al., 2006, Study 3, for similar
findings regarding creativity). We argue that men’s tendency
toward humor production and women’s tendency toward
humor evaluation are components of strategies that men and
women enact in the service of particular goals and are not the
result of differential abilities. Sex differences in the applica-
tion of these strategies can be explained by differential
parental investment. Although humor production used by
either sex might convey similar information, it may be more
advantageous for men to advertise their humor for attracting
mates and for women to evaluate these humorous displays
when choosing among potential suitors.
Study 3
Studies 1 and 2 provide encouraging evidence that men pro-
duce humor to advertise their worth as romantic partners and
that women evaluate men’s humorous offerings. Study 3 was
designed to test more explicitly that women’s evaluations of
men’s humor bear a strong relation to their romantic partner
choices. If women do indeed use a man’s humorous attempts
to gauge his romantic suitability, their humor evaluations
should be strongly associated with their romantic interest.
We presented men and women with a fictitious online dating
profile that opened with one of several “one-liner” jokes. We
predicted that men’s ratings of the profile’s humor would
bear no relation to their romantic interest, whereas women’s
ratings of the profile’s humor would be significantly corre-
lated with their romantic interest.
Participants. One hundred fourteen introductory psychol-
ogy students (73 women, 41 men) at a large Canadian uni-
versity participated in Study 3 in exchange for course credit.
The majority of participants (62.3%) identified themselves
as White, 17.6% of participants identified themselves as
Asian, and 20.1% of participants identified themselves as
being of another ethnicity. Participants ranged in age from 17
to 24 years old, with a median age of 18 years old.
Procedure. Participants were run individually as part of a
larger set of studies. An experimenter greeted participants,
seated them at a computer, and obtained informed consent.
The experimenter explained to participants that all instruc-
tions would be presented via computer and asked them to
follow instructions carefully. Participants were then left
alone to complete the study.
Participants first answered several demographic questions.
They were then informed that they would examine an online
dating profile that had ostensibly been submitted to a develop-
ing campus dating service and would answer several questions
concerning the person described by the profile. The dating
profile was adapted from Sritharan et al. (2010), including
basic information pertaining to the user’s demographics. The
profile did not contain a photograph, however, so that we
could more cleanly assess the effect of humor on attraction
without the noise introduced by physical attractiveness.
For the purposes of the present study, we created an
“About Me” section that purportedly described the user in
his or her own words. This section started with one of the
following “one-liner” jokes:
1. Energizer Bunny arrested, charged with battery.
2. What do you get if you cross a dinosaur with a
plate? A tyrannosaucer.
3. On April Fool’s Day, a mother put a firecracker
under the pancakes. She blew her stack.
4. Sign in restaurant window: Eat now, pay waiter.
5. What’s the strongest bird? A crane.
The description proceeded to portray the person as mildly
interesting and quirky. The profile remained on the screen
for 90 seconds to ensure that participants took time to care-
fully examine the information. After viewing the profile,
participants were prompted to provide their impressions of
the individual on several personality traits and to rate their
romantic interest in the individual.
Trait ratings. Participants rated the individual described by
the profile on the following traits: intelligent, warm, funny,
ambitious, arrogant, optimistic, clever, nice, humorous, bor-
ing, and leader-like. Responses were made using a 7-point
Likert-type scale (1 = not at all, 4 = somewhat, 7 = extremely).
We averaged ratings of “funny” and “humorous” into a humor
composite variable (r = .78), ratings of “intelligent” and
“clever” into an intelligence composite variable (r = .32), and
ratings of “warm” and “nice” into a warmth composite vari-
able (r = .61) for use in further analyses.
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Wilbur and Campbell 9
Dependent measures. Participants indicated how inter-
ested they would be in getting to know the target better, hav-
ing the target as a long-term romantic partner, and whether
they could see the target as a potential marriage partner,
using a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all, 4 = some-
what, 7 = very). We averaged scores on these items to create
a romantic interest composite variable (α = .89).
Overview. We regressed romantic interest on dummy-
coded participant sex, centered humor ratings, and the inter-
action term. Two outliers were removed before analysis.1 We
expected an interaction such that women’s humor ratings
would predict their romantic interest, but men’s humor rat-
ings would not. In addition, consistent with Study 2, we
examined relations between humor ratings and ratings of tar-
gets’ intelligence and warmth.
Test of hypothesis. Consistent with our hypothesis, a sig-
nificant interaction between participant sex and humor rat-
ings emerged, b = .456, t = 2.044, p = .043. An inspection of
the simple slopes revealed that humor ratings were not asso-
ciated with romantic interest among male participants, b = .124,
t = 0.649, p = .518, whereas humor ratings were positively
associated with romantic interest among female participants,
b = .580, t = 5.035, p < .001 (see Figure 2). Women’s humor
evaluations, compared to men’s, appear to carry greater
implications for their romantic desire.
Associations of humor with other traits. Women’s ratings of tar-
getshumor were significantly correlated with both their ratings
of targets’ intelligence (r = .44, p < .001) and their ratings of
targets’ warmth (r = .36, p = .002). Interestingly, men’s ratings
of targets’ humor were not significantly correlated with either
their ratings of targets’ intelligence (r = .08, p = .66) or their rat-
ings of targets’ warmth (r = .19, p = .27). As indicated by two-
tailed tests, the sex difference in correlations between humor
ratings and intelligence ratings was marginally significant (z =
1.88, p = .06); the sex difference in correlations between humor
ratings and warmth ratings was not (z = 0.88, p = .38).
In Study 3, we exposed participants to one of several jokes
and assessed their evaluations of the targets’ humorous
attempts and whether these evaluations predicted conse-
quent romantic interest. We observed that women’s evalua-
tions of men’s humor are, in fact, predictive of their romantic
interest. Past research (Bressler & Balshine, 2006; Bressler
et al., 2006) has characterized women as indicating their
romantic interest through signaling their appreciation of
men’s humor. Although women show signs of romantic
interest through appreciation of men’s jokes, whether they
have any romantic interest in the first place is largely contin-
gent on how they evaluate the qualities of prospective suit-
ors. The results of Study 3 suggest that demonstrating a flair
for good humor might be one test men must pass to pique
women’s romantic desire.
On the other hand, men’s evaluations of women’s humor
were not related to their romantic interest. Sex differences in
how men and women evaluate potential mates’ humor might
reflect differences in what characteristics men and women
infer from a potential mate’s humorous offerings. We
observed that women’s ratings of a male target’s humor were
related to their inferences about his intelligence and warmth;
men’s ratings of a female target’s humor showed little asso-
ciation with their ratings of her intelligence or warmth. Sex
differences in these trait inferences were particularly pro-
nounced for inferences of intelligence. Women appear to
ascertain the qualities of prospective romantic partners
through an assessment of their humor. Perhaps men infer less
from humor, as they tend to be more focused on physical
appearance (e.g., Li et al., 2002).
General Discussion
Three studies provided converging evidence that in initial
courtship, men use humor to convey information about under-
lying traits and women evaluate men’s humorous productions
to make prudent mating decisions. Specifically, in Study 1, men
reported a greater likelihood of producing humor in service of
attracting prospective mates. Women, on the other hand, indi-
cated a greater propensity toward evaluating men’s humor.
Study 2 extended these findings to an ecologically valid con-
text: An analysis of online dating advertisements revealed that
men more frequently offer humor production than do women,
whereas women more frequently request humor production
than do men. Study 3 provided evidence that women’s evalua-
tion of men’s humorous attempts have implications for their
mating decisions: Women’s perceptions of humor in male dating
Profile Evaluated as
Profile Evaluated as
Interest in Target
Figure 2. Men’s and women’s predicted romantic interest in an
online dating profile as a function of their humor evaluations (Study 3)
Note: Nonhumorous evaluations and humorous evaluations are plotted
at 1 SD below the mean and 1 SD above the mean, respectively, on humor
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10 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin XX(X)
profiles predicted their extent of expressed romantic interest.
Men’s perceptions of women’s humor were not associated
with their expressed romantic interest.
Applying sexual selection theory (Darwin, 1871/1981)
toward understanding how men and women use humor in
mating contexts uncovers subtle differences previously
obfuscated by the general conclusion that men and women
equally value a mate’s sense of humor (Feingold, 1992). Men
and women have divergent conceptions of what it means to
have a sense of humor. In line with previous research (Bressler
& Balshine, 2006; Bressler et al., 2006), we observed that
men produce humor as a means of advertising their romantic
suitability. Whereas past research has focused on women’s
appreciation of prospective partners’ humor, we provide evi-
dence that accords more strongly with the tenets of sexual
selection theory: Women, as the more investing sex, judi-
ciously evaluate the humorous offerings of prospective mates
to make sensible mating decisions.
Another contribution of the present research is that it
builds on and extends Miller’s (2000a) conjecture that
humor functions as a fitness indicator. In Study 2, we
observed that online dating advertisements offering humor
production were more likely to offer intelligence concur-
rently and that requesters of humor production were more
likely to request intelligence concurrently. Although these
patterns cannot demonstrate that advertisers of humor
production actually are as intelligent as they claim, the data
do provide initial support that individuals might use humor
production as a means of conveying their self-perceived
intelligence. Humor production offers and requests bore no
relation to offers and requests for warmth, but women’s
offers of and men’s requests for a partner with a general
sense of humor were systematically associated with wom-
en’s offers and men’s requests for a warm partner, respec-
tively. Thus, a sense of humor, when construed as a general
cheerful or optimistic disposition, might signal that a per-
son is warm and agreeable, whereas humor production,
specifically construed as active attempts at telling jokes
and amusing stories, might signal information about one’s
In Study 3, we observed that women’s ratings of the
humor in online dating profiles were correlated with their
ratings of both the targets’ intelligence and the targets’
warmth. Interestingly, men’s ratings of target humor were
not significantly correlated with their ratings of target intel-
ligence or target warmth. At first glance, these observations
appear at odds with those from Study 2. One key difference
between the two studies, however, is that Study 2 coded the
traits people claim to offer and request whereas Study 3
involved participants making their own assessments of a tar-
get’s humor and other traits. Thus, it could be, for example,
that women offer humor production and intelligence and
men request both traits because of a shared assumption that
humorous productions connote intelligence. But perhaps
when actually confronted with a humorous partner, women
are more inclined than men to read into a partner’s humor
given their greater selectivity in mate choice.
We also view our findings as complementing findings
inspired by the interest indicator model (Li et al., 2009).
We suggest that men exhibit a predilection toward produc-
ing humor and women are especially sensitive to evaluat-
ing humor in the earliest stages of courtship (e.g., when
just getting to know someone, when perusing a selection of
online dating profiles). Under such circumstances, differ-
ential parental investment might explain why men produce
humor and women evaluate humor. When two prospective
partners have developed more rapport and mutual interest,
or when the two partners enter into a romantic relation-
ship, both men and women might tend toward using humor
similarly as a means of indicating their interest in develop-
ing or reaffirming the relationship, as posited by the inter-
est indicator model.
Humor serves multiple purposes in human affairs, and
our focus here is on the role of humor as a fitness indicator.
As such, we argue that humor is not a valued trait in its own
right; rather, it is valued in romantic partners to the extent
that it honestly signals the presence of fundamentally
important traits, such as intelligence and warmth. Other fit-
ness indicators might suffice to convey the same informa-
tion, and indeed Miller (2000a, 2000b, 2007) notes that
several such indicators exist, including heroism, moral
character, and artistic creativity. We suggest that humor
might be an especially suitable means to advertise fitness
because expressions of humor in romantic contexts can
subtly convey interest in incremental fashion (cf. Li et al.,
2009). If such expressions are not met favorably, the adver-
tiser avoids the sting of rejection that results from bolder,
more direct ploys. Li et al. (2009) provided evidence that
humor is a more effective signal of interest than general
intelligent conversation, and future research should con-
tinue to examine the effectiveness of humor, compared to
other putative fitness indicators, in relationship initiation.
The particular means or combination of means that an indi-
vidual employs to impart a desired impression likely
depends on contextual factors and on which option best
serves one’s specific mating goals.
Humor might also be a particularly efficient fitness indi-
cator because of the interplay among humor production,
humor evaluation, and humor appreciation. Humor produc-
tion transmits information about underlying quality, evalu-
ation of humor production attempts subsequently ensues,
and overt cues of appreciation, such as smiling and laugh-
ing, signal in return a positive evaluation and a desire to
further the relationship. In this light, our findings comple-
ment prior research on the role of humor appreciation in
signaling romantic interest (Bressler & Balshine, 2006;
Bressler et al., 2006; Li et al., 2009). Men’s reported prefer-
ences for women who appreciate their humorous attempts
likely stem from humor appreciation signaling substantia-
tion of men’s mate value.
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Wilbur and Campbell 11
Future Directions
One limitation of the present research, and that of most
research exploring humor and mating, is that we did not
distinguish between various types of humor. Our analogy
that humor is a vehicle for carrying information about
underlying traits could be strengthened further by showing
that particular types of humor are each most telling of par-
ticular traits. We observed in Study 2 that a sense of humor,
construed as a cheery, positive disposition, and humor pro-
duction, construed as active creation of humor, bore rela-
tions to discrete traits (warmth vs. intelligence, respectively).
But humor production itself could be deconstructed further
to test whether different modes of creating humor signal
different underlying qualities. One classification scheme
delineates four types of humor: self-enhancing humor,
affiliative humor, aggressive humor, and self-defeating
humor (Martin, Puhlik-Doris, Larsen, Gray, & Weir, 2003).
Future research should examine how these different types
of humor map onto underlying qualities, including those
not examined in the present research (e.g., extraversion,
emotional stability).
Future research should also examine specific mating con-
texts to assess the moderating influence of short-term versus
long-term mating goals. A particularly interesting question
to address is whether different types of humor are preferred
in short-term versus long-term mating contexts. Women are
drawn to behaviorally dominant men as short-term sexual
partners but prefer warmer, gentler partners as long-term
mates (Gangestad, Garver-Apgar, Simpson, & Cousins,
2007). It may be, then, that men using aggressive humor
would have more success seeking short-term mates, whereas
men using affiliative humor would have greater success
seeking long-term mates.
Humor serves myriad functions across contexts and the
different ways in which men and women use and respond to
humor across contexts should be directly compared. For
example, women exhibit a propensity for humor production
when in the company of other women to promote group cohe-
sion (Crawford & Gressley, 1991), but tend toward humor
evaluation when interacting with prospective romantic part-
ners. Research explicitly comparing the use of humor in
romantic relationships with the use of humor in platonic or
familial relationships is lacking.
Men and women both value a prospective romantic partner’s
sense of humor (Feingold, 1992) and recognize the utility
that displaying a sense of humor can have for attracting mates
(Buss, 1988). More recent research has importantly uncov-
ered that men and women differ in what facets of a sense of
humor they value (Bressler & Balshine, 2006; Bressler et al.,
2006). We buttress these findings by showing that men are
inclined to produce humor in romantic contexts and that
women are inclined to evaluate men’s humorous offerings.
We also uncovered associations between humor and underly-
ing traits, such as intelligence and warmth. Humor is a mul-
tipurpose tool applicable to a wide variety of social domains
(Martin, 2007), and future research on the social use of
humor that is sensitive to the different functions (e.g., adver-
tising traits, building rapport), forms (e.g., affiliative, aggres-
sive), and facets (e.g., humor production, humor appreciation,
humor evaluation) of humor has great potential to address
why Frank Moore Colby’s speculation rings so true.
Authors’ Note
A portion of this research was presented at the annual meeting of
the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, Memphis, TN
(January 2007) and the annual meeting of the Society of Personality
and Social Psychology, San Antonio, TX (January 2011). We thank
Eli Finkel, Jim Olson, and Geoffrey Miller for their insightful com-
ments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support
for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: a
Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded by the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council of Canada to the first author and a
grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
of Canada, and a Premier’s Research Excellence Award given to
the second author.
1. We computed Cook’s D for each case, which enables identifi-
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... Despite this interest in humor, the extant literature has been limited in its comparisons of categorically funny and unfunny displays in favor of comparing humor displays to no attempt at humor. Previous research's consideration of differing levels of quality in a humor display have been limited insofar as they rely on subjective interpretations of humor about which limited information of their quality existed (see Wilbur & Campbell, 2011). These methodological shortcomings ambiguate the full extent to which humor veridically signals men's competence (Driebe et al., 2021), especially considering how humorous men experience greater reproductive success (Greengross & Miller, 2011). ...
... Consideration of this methodological rigor could afford researchers the opportunity to understand how women's prioritization of humor leads to funnier men enjoying an adaptive advantage and being selected more readily. Women demonstrate heightened romantic interest toward relatively more successful humor displays in a manner that does not happen for men (Wilbur & Campbell, 2011). This research sought to expound upon this research for how the quality of humor displays informs women's mating decisions by considering categorically distinct levels of humor quality. ...
... Another behavioral repertoire from which women could infer reproductive value is their sense of humor, given their prioritization of humor over several other pertinent traits (e.g., Buss, 1988;Feingold, 1992;Wilbur & Campbell, 2011). Nonetheless, it remains less clear which aspect of this inferred fitness from humor is most apparent (e.g., Bressler & Balshine, 2006;DiDonato et al., 2013), thereby precluding our understanding of which mating context is more influenced by humor displays. ...
... Men's ability to produce humor could be one repertoire. Women prefer funny men (Bressler & Balshine, 2006;Feingold, 1988;Wilbur & Campbell, 2011). As humor strengthens social bonds (Li et al., 2009), selection would have favored those capable of identifying others' intentions to use humor, including humor that would satisfy the relevant goals of the perceiver. ...
... Despite women's considerable emphasis on men's humor (Wilbur & Campbell, 2011), the evolutionary function of humor has many similarities across sexes (Li et al., 2009). It would be advantageous to consider the physical features of women that lead men to invoke a tradeoff in selecting mates using aggressive humor. ...
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Women find men's upper body strength highly desirable, albeit primarily within short‐term mating contexts. This boundary implicates strength as possessing both costs and benefits in long‐term and short‐term mating contexts. The desirability of strength could be contingent upon whether the costs or benefits of strength are more salient through additional behavioral repertoires that signal a specific type of mating intent. Men's humor style could be one modality to infer costs and benefits, namely their interest in affiliative humor relative to aggressive humor. This study represents a synergistic replication of previous work investigating the desirability of strength and various humor styles in mating domains. Women evaluated the short‐term and long‐term desirability of a prospective mate manipulated to appear physically strong or weak and described using affiliative or aggressive humor. We replicated previous findings implicating affiliative humor as desirable in long‐term contexts and upper body strength in short‐term contexts. However, no interactive effects between these traits emerged. Results indicate that women's mate choices are multimodal and frequently involve evaluating the costs and benefits of various constellations of traits.
... This finding is consistent with research by Buss (1989), which found that men put "good looks" at the top of their list when choosing a mate, and women put "good financial prospects" at the top [22]. Women were more interested in men with a sense of humor, which is consistent with a previous study [63]. Chinese women valued intelligence more than men. ...
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Sexual selection has become an important research topic in behavioral ecology, human behavior, and evolution. The study of mate selection preferences across cultures and countries has gradually received increasing attention. The present study was aimed to reveal the differences of long-term and short-term mate selection preferences between young people in Chinese and South Korean. An questionnaire survey method was followed to obtain the aim of the study, and a total of 273 Chinese (M = 22.07, SD = 1.75) and 181 Koreans (M = 21.75, SD = 2.05) unmarried university students were chosen to participate the study. We summarized the important core factors of individual mate preferences and revealed the long-term and short-term mate preferences of young men and women in both countries through quantitative analysis. The results indicated that education played a crucial role in the long-term mate selection for both Chinese males and females. Contrastingly, Koreans valued friendliness and easygoingness in long-term mate value and liveliness in short-term mate value. There were differences found in mate preference by gender between Chinese and Koreans, influenced by cross-cultural factors. These findings strongly supported cultural differences in mate selection and provided practical suggestions for future cross-cultural mate selection research.
... This research adds to prior work on the use of aggressive humor by providing evidence that differentiates the Contests Hypothesis of the use of aggressive humor from the Mate-Choice Hypothesis. Prior research on aggressive humor under the framework of evolutionary psychology Miller, 2008, 2011;Wilbur and Campbell, 2011;Cowan and Little, 2013;DiDonato et al., 2013;Zeigler-Hill et al., 2013;Hone et al., 2015;Ross and Hall, 2020) almost exclusively focused on the effect of using aggressive humor on users' perceived desirability as a longor short-term mate and mating success. However, those findings do not support either the Contests Hypothesis or the Mate-Choice Hypothesis. ...
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Introduction: The use of aggressive humor (e.g., teasing, schadenfreude, and sarcasm) is a spiteful behavior because it inflicts costs on both others and the self. To explain the existence of this spiteful behavior, two hypotheses derived from sexual selection theory-namely Mate-Choice and Contests-posit that the use of aggressive humor helps one attract mates or repel competitors. Both hypotheses have merit, but extant data are unable to discriminate between them. Methods: We critically tested those two hypotheses with a survey study that measured 509 U.S. MTurkers' self-reported tendencies to use aggressive (and other types of) humor, the motives to engage in competition and courtship, and the Dark-Triad personality traits. The final sample was N = 439. Results: We found that (1) the motive of competition but not courtship positively and significantly correlated with the self-reported tendency to use aggressive humor. (2) Subclinical psychopathy-a personality trait positively associated with competition-mediated the correlation between the motive of competition and self-reported use of aggressive humor. These results were held in both female and male respondents. Discussion: Our findings favored the Contests Hypothesis and helped reveal the psychological mechanism that generates the use of aggressive humor as a form of verbal aggression and spiteful behavior.
... Both intelligence and humor are, in turn, important determinants when assessing the attractiveness of a potential partner (e.g., [34,35]). Also in an online dating context, it has been shown that owners of profiles that appear to be more intelligent (e.g., [36]) and humorous (e.g., [37,38]) are deemed more desirable relationship partners. In all, we pose the following two hypotheses: ...
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This paper investigates origins and consequences of perceived profile text originality. The first goal was to examine whether the perceived originality of authentic online dating profile texts affects online daters’ perceptions of attractiveness, and whether perceptions of (less) desired partner personality traits mediate this effect. Results showed the positive impact of perceived profile text originality on impression formation: text originality positively affects perceptions of intelligence and sense of humor, which improve impressions of attractiveness and boost dating intention. The second goal was to explore what profile text features increase perceptions of profile text originality. Results revealed profile texts which were stylistically original (e.g., include metaphors) and contained more and concrete self-disclosure statements were considered more original, explaining almost half of the variance in originality scores. Taken together, our results suggest that perceived originality in profile texts is manifested in both meaning and form, and is a balancing act between novelty and appropriateness.
Research on humor at work has tended to focus on either the social evaluations formed about the source of humor or the interpersonal consequences that accompany the use of humor. Yet, research suggests that the targets of humor - such as a follower who is the punchline of her leader's jokes - face their own unique judgements and impressions from the social environment. Indeed, humor directed toward another person can communicate important information about the individual and can shape how others perceive and evaluate them. Unfortunately, research on the social evaluations of humor targets is fragmented and relatively underdeveloped. We advance understanding of humor at work by reviewing research on the social evaluations of humor targets, with particular focus on the social evaluations of leader humor targets (i.e., followers). We conclude with several directions for future research.
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Bere ingurunean aldaketak gertatzen direnean eta erronka berriei aurre egin behar dienean, jokaera berri batzuk eskatzen zaizkio organismoari, baina jokaera horiek sarritan zailak izaten dira eta energia asko eskatzen dute. Ingurunean gertatzen diren aldaketak ustekabekoak eta kontrolagaitzak direnean, informazio konplexua azkar prozesatzea eskatzen duten erronkei aurre egin behar die subjektuak; erantzun egokia azkar eman beharrean gertatzen da, baina ez du erantzun bizkor horrek eskatzen duen baliabiderik.
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The article presents a research overview on developments in the field of gender and humour over the last fifty years, going back a bit further in relation to literature and film. The research comes mainly from linguistics and communication studies, but also from sociology, psychology, literature and media studies. Most changes lie in the appropriation of multifaceted humorous forms by girls and women. Humour becomes apparent as a component of a social semiotics that indexes and stylizes (non)traditional gender poles. The sub-themes revolve around humour development in children, laughter as a form of communication, humour in the world of work and in the media.
This chapter focuses on the behaviors employed by men in the service of attracting mates, which we discuss as having emerged to solve specific reproductive problems faced by women. We consider behaviors employed by men to attract mates in short-term mating and long-term mating contexts, given the differential valuation on certain behavioral repertoire that emerge. In short-term mating, we specifically consider behavioral displays of dominance with their dispositional and situational antecedents before discussing men’s pursuit of distinctiveness and humor use, behaviors ostensibly indicative of good genes. In long-term mating, our discussion centers around the desirability of different resource displays and benevolence. We further discuss cues ostensibly diagnostic of paternal investment ability and an interest in monogamy. Our final section addresses how modern mating markets present adaptive problems for men (e.g., online dating, appearance enhancing behaviors) and how men seek to solve the new problems that have emerged.
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Having a high sense of humor has been found to be a general social asset, but there has been no assessment of the specific qualities that are assumed to be associated with variations in sense of humor. Two studies were conducted to examine the assumptions observers would make about the personal qualities associated with varying levels of sense of humor. In the first study, participants (150 female and 86 male college students) were asked to use a set of adjectives to rate individuals described as varying in sense of humor. The overall pattern of results indicated that, compared to persons described as “typical” or “below average” in sense of humor, individuals described as “well above average” were rated more highly on socially desirable adjectives, lower on socially undesirable adjectives, but no different on adjectives reflecting social sensitivity. In the second study, participants (120 female and 49 male college students) were asked to use a measure of the “big five” personality traits to rate individuals described as varying in sense of humor. Results indicated that individuals described as being “well above average” in sense of humor were perceived as lower in neuroticism and higher in agreeableness than “typical”, or “below average” sense of humor others. The findings of these two studies confirm the importance of a high sense of humor as a social asset, and provide some clarity concerning the likely underlying bases for the positive expectations sense of humor generates in observers.
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The results of numerous empirical studies, which ave examined in this article, indicate that, in general, humor can beneficially influence mental health. Specifically, it has been observed that humor as a response (e.g., laughter) is associated with a reduction in some existing mental health problems, whereas humor as a psychological process (sense of humor) appears to moderate the perceived intensity of negative life events. Several suggestions are provided about how these different kinds of humor might occasion their effects. A number of issues are also identified that warrant further empirical examination. These include whether, and if so how, the relationships between humor and mental health are affected by individual difference variables, (e.g., personality, gender, extent of actual effect of negative life events, degree of appreciation of humorous experimental stimuli); how much each of the above mentioned types of humor contribute to effects observed in any given situation; how the relationships in question are affected by different kinds of humorous stimuli; and various aspects of the broader experimental context.
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Empirical research on humor has perpetuated, rather than challenged, stereotypes of the humorless female. Among other biases, it has neglected participants' own definitions of “sense of humor” and their own accounts of their preferences and practices. In this study, 203 participants (72 males, 131 females) answered a 68-item Humor Questionnaire and also wrote a narrative about a person with an outstanding sense of humor. Factor analysis of the questionnaire revealed ten dimensions of humor, with four of the ten producing gender differences. Content analysis of the narratives produced a detailed account of the participants' definition of sense of humor. Both males and females viewed creativity, contextual relevance, and caring as components of an outstanding sense of humor. Gender similarities and differences are discussed in relation to the conversational context of spontaneous humor.
Social exchange and evolutionary models of mate selection incorporate economic assumptions but have not considered a key distinction between necessities and luxuries. This distinction can clarify an apparent paradox: Status and attractiveness, though emphasized by many researchers, are not typically rated highly by research participants. Three studies supported the hypothesis that women and men first ensure sufficient levels of necessities in potential mates before considering many other characteristics rated as more important in prior surveys. In Studies 1 and 2, participants designed ideal long-term mates, purchasing various characteristics with 3 different budgets. Study 3 used a mate-screening paradigm and showed that people inquire 1st about hypothesized necessities. Physical attractiveness was a necessity to men, status and resources were necessities to women, and kindness and intelligence were necessities to both.
Research on humor is carried out in a number of areas in psychology, including the cognitive (What makes something funny?), developmental (when do we develop a sense of humor?), and social (how is humor used in social interactions?) Although there is enough interest in the area to have spawned several societies, the literature is dispersed in a number of primary journals, with little in the way of integration of the material into a book. Dr. Martin is one of the best known researchers in the area, and his research goes across subdisciplines in psychology to be of wide appeal. This is a singly authored monograph that provides in one source, a summary of information researchers might wish to know about research into the psychology of humor. The material is scholarly, but the presentation of the material is suitable for people unfamiliar with the subject-making the book suitable for use for advanced undergraduate and graduate level courses on the psychology of humor-which have not had a textbook source.
Two studies were conducted to examine the strategies used to initiate romantic relationships. In Study 1, participants responded to questions about general romantic relationship initiation strategies derived from the literature. In Study 2, participants wrote narrative accounts of their romantic relationship initiation experiences, which were coded for relationship goals and initiation strategies. The effect of biological sex on the evaluation and use of relationship initiation strategies was assessed in both studies. Overall, the normative pattern of goals and strategies prominently included love and intimacy goals and direct and emotional-disclosure strategies. Men tended to be more active and direct in the beginning stages of relational development and to be more interested than women in the goal of sexual intimacy; women used passive and indirect strategies more often than men. Results are discussed in terms of Buss and Schmitt’s sexual strategies theory and Reis and Shaver’s model of interpersonal intimacy.
Humorous interaction is a ubiquitous aspect of human social behavior, yet the function of humor has rarely been studied from a Darwinian perspective. One exception is Miller's theory that one's ability to produce high-quality humor functioned as a fitness indicator, and hence, humor production and appreciation have evolved as a result of sexual selection. In this study, we examined whether there are sex differences in attraction to humorous individuals, and whether using humor influences perceptions of humorists' personality traits. We experimentally manipulated how humorous two-stimulus persons were perceived to be by presenting them with autobiographical statements that were either funny or not. Participants chose which person was a more desirable partner for a romantic relationship, and which individual was more likely to have several personality traits. Only women evaluating men chose humorous people as preferred relationship partners. For both sexes, humorous individuals were seen as less intelligent and trustworthy than their nonhumorous counterparts, but as more socially adept. These results are discussed in light of sexual selection theory.
In the current resurgence of interest in the biological basis of animal behavior and social organization, the ideas and questions pursued by Charles Darwin remain fresh and insightful. This is especially true of The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, Darwin's second most important work. This edition is a facsimile reprint of the first printing of the first edition (1871), not previously available in paperback. The work is divided into two parts. Part One marshals behavioral and morphological evidence to argue that humans evolved from other animals. Darwin shoes that human mental and emotional capacities, far from making human beings unique, are evidence of an animal origin and evolutionary development. Part Two is an extended discussion of the differences between the sexes of many species and how they arose as a result of selection. Here Darwin lays the foundation for much contemporary research by arguing that many characteristics of animals have evolved not in response to the selective pressures exerted by their physical and biological environment, but rather to confer an advantage in sexual competition. These two themes are drawn together in two final chapters on the role of sexual selection in humans. In their Introduction, Professors Bonner and May discuss the place of The Descent in its own time and relation to current work in biology and other disciplines.