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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 December 2, 2018

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

1. Connecting them with each other

Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

2. Connect with their emotions

Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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3. Keep going back to the beginning

Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

4. Link to your audience’s motivation

After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

5. Entertain them

While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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6. Appeal to loyalty

Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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