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Is There Any Link Between Humor And Intelligence?

Is There Any Link Between Humor And Intelligence?

We all have that one friend – the one who has such a quick wit, the one with a snappy hilarious comeback, the one who can have a room laughing with their one-liners and jokes. They are fun to be around and would definitely be thought of as an extrovert. But highly intelligent? Most of us haven’t thought about that. Researchers have, however. And the results of their research might surprise you.

Early Research Says Yes

Before researchers ever began to look at any relationship between humor and intelligence, many educational psychologists and sociologists had already identified what came to be known as emotional and social intelligence. They continue to believe that people with a good sense of humor are extroverted and able to function in society more successfully.

In the 1970’s, William Hauck and John Thomas, two researchers at Bucknell University, tested 80 elementary children to determine any correlation between intelligence and humor and creativity. Their results showed a .89 correlation between intelligence and creativity and a .91 correlation between intelligence and humor. For readers who have never had a statistics course, there is a very high correlation.

Most can easily accept the correlation between humor and creativity, but may find the one between humor and intelligence a bit harder to digest. Fortunately, more research followed this early study.

Research in the 90’s is Supportive

During the 90’s, there was a growth in research of the two hemispheres of the brain. This research determined that the left hemisphere was where the verbal, logical, linear thinking occurred, and the right hemisphere is more responsible for visual, artistic, creative, and problem-solving abilities.

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Taking this information, biologist Michael Johnson conducted and then published his study on the correlation between perceptual and motor skills and the ability to understand and produce humor. Participants in this study were asked to rate the “funniness” of 32 jokes and then solve 14 visual manipulation problems. His results showed a correlation between those who did well on the problems and were able to understand the humor in the jokes.

Another researcher, Daniel Holt, studied the correlation between humor and giftedness in school-aged children. He concluded that gifted students have several common characteristics, one of those being an “an advanced sense of humor.”

Still more research found that, among 185 college-aged students, those with higher intelligence were able to rate humor better and to produce humor, by way of creating captions to cartoons. Another correlation was found between humor and extraversion.

Into the 2000’s – More Confirmation

Research has continued into this century, and all of it seems to support all of the earlier research.

In 2010, University of New Mexico researchers conducted studies with 400 students, equally divided by gender. They were tested for verbal intelligence, abstract reasoning and their ability to produce humor, again by writing captions to three cartoons. Again, high scores on intelligence tests correlated with abilities to recognize and produce humor.

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Other studies with college students also support the findings of the University of Mexico study.

Neuroscience Enters the Picture

In 2009, Alastair Clarke published a book, the Pattern Recognition Theory of Humour. Without going into all of the terminology and scientific context, in general, Clarke said that we come to understand our world and our language by establishing and understanding patterns. Patterns in language allow us to understand and appreciate humor in more sophisticated ways as we develop. As well, the amount of understanding differs with individuals, thus some are more adept at both comprehending humor and producing it. So, it’s a brain thing, according to Clarke.

Neuroscientists have been looking into the areas of the brain that are activated by humor. Researchers at Stanford University, led by Dr. Allan Reiss, neuroscientist and child psychiatrist, are studying the brains of children through MRI’s, as they watch humorous videos. And compared to adults, the same region of the brain, the mesolimbic region, is activated. This region is active in kids as young as age 6.

Humor also activated another portion of the brain (temporal-occipital-parietal junction), which is that part of the brain that processes the act of surprise or mis-matches (incongruity). This makes sense because a lot of humor occurs when you are expecting a certain to happen or be said, and something totally different happens or is said, and it is then funny.

Humor and Human Hormones

Reiss also speculates that highly developed regions of the brain that process and understand humor will also correlate with the ability to be more resilient in handling stressful and difficult situations, often by the ability to see some humor in them. Even more interesting, however, is the chemicals that are released when humor is understood and appreciated.

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Endorphins

All of us are by now familiar with the “feel-good” hormones that are released during times of happiness, physical exercise, human touch, etc. They are responsible for the good feelings that we experience. But newer research is finding other hormonal results associated with humor.

Cortisol

Cortisol is better known as the stress hormone. This chemical damages brain neurons that are responsible for learning and memory, especially in older people. Research at Loma Linda University is now attempting to learn whether cortisol production is reduced by humor and whether humor can also reduce the damage to neurons that cortisol causes.

The study was simple enough. A group of senior citizens was shown a funny video for 20 minutes and then given a memory. The control group did not watch the video but took the same memory test. Sure enough – those who watched the video scored higher.

Cortisol concentrations were also recorded before and after the video. There was a definite decrease in cortisol concentrations in the group that watched the video. The decreases in cortisol were especially high in elderly with diabetes, which has now given researchers another area for study. It appears that laughter and humor will reduce stress.

Dr. G.S. Bain and Dr. L.S. Berk, heads of this study have expressed excitement about the study results, stating that there are big implications for wellness and better quality of life for the elderly.

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It seems, then, that laughter is not just “good medicine,” but also good for the memory and the reduction of stress.

In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner, professor at Harvard University developed a theory of multiple intelligences. To him, humans had 8 different intelligences in different capacities. Some of these intelligences did involve humor as a characteristic – language, reasoning, and spatial specifically. These are the intelligences that we normally test through traditional IQ testing, so this explains why, finally, humor and intelligence are related.

No matter how scientists continue to study the relationships between humor and intelligence, we all know one thing. We appreciate that witty, funny person who brings us laughter.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2018

Why Helping Others Actually Helps Yourself

Why Helping Others Actually Helps Yourself

Helping others: it’s a fundamental part of humanity, bonding together and helping a fellow man or woman. In times of tragedy, the stories of those who help others are inspiring, such as helping the nation recover from national disasters and terrorist attacks. Some men and women even devote their lives to helping others, from the police force that protects our cities, to the fire departments who run into burning buildings, to the service men and women who risk their lives for the common good.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” ― Anne Frank, diary of Anne Frank

But helping others isn’t limited to these grand gestures or times of tribulation. Helping others can be done each and every day. And contrary to what you may have heard, helping others doesn’t always have to be a selfless act. It’s important to understand that helping others can actually help yourself. No matter what the motivation, getting out and helping others is the key. So in that spirit of motivation, here are 5 reasons why helping others actually helps yourself.

1. Quid Pro Quo

When you help someone, they will be more likely to help you. This is the basic, unspoken agreement that fuels nearly every move. I’ll spend my entire day lugging boxes, but you owe me. It’s much easier to find help when someone knows you’d do the same for them. They may not always live up to their end of the bargin, and you may not either. But if you help enough people and do many good deeds, it will be given back when needed.

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2. Karma goes both ways.

All too often, the idea of Karma is described in a negative way. If you do bad, bad will come find you. But it works the other way too. When you are a good person and help people, good things seem to happen. And while you may not believe in an inter-connected universe that rewards good deeds, there is something to be said about how helping others changes your perspective. When you’re helping others, you will often feel better about yourself, increasing the likelihood that your next experience will be a positive one, rather than a negative one.

3. Doing good feels good.

It’s maybe the most cited benefit of doing good: you’ll feel great. Helping others is a great way to feel better about yourself. Seeing a smile or even tears of joy makes it all worth it. It’s as simple as that.

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4. Good publicity is the best publicity.

People notice when you’re doing good. It may not be the reason you help out, but someone is always watching. Even the simplest gesture can make an awesome impression.

When I was in college, I had a class that helped out at a school for a full day. I worked with a small group of high school students who were incredibly interested in writing, and I had a great time. I asked the teacher if I could come back on my own time and work with these students to finish this project we were working on, to which she agreed.

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I went two more times that week, thinking nothing more about it. Fast forward a few weeks: I received a letter in the mail stating I had been chosen as a Presidential Grant Recipient for the summer and received a $2,000 stipend to work with a group of students and professors on a research project over the summer. I was floored, as I hadn’t even applied. I was nominated by that teacher who appreciated the work I did with her students. It wasn’t expected, but helping others ended up opening a door I never would have known was even available.

5. Helping others looks good on a resume or application.

Is your resume looking a little thin? Does your college application need a bit of pizzaz? Volunteering your time and energy to help others makes your resume and applications look as good as it makes you feel. Hiring managers look favorably on volunteer work and many acceptance committees use it to separate similar candidates. So read to some first graders, volunteer at the homeless shelter, and volunteer at your local Boys and Girl Club. Your resume will thank you.

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Featured photo credit: xavi talleda via flickr.com

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