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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 February 19, 2020

15 Positive Thinking Books You Need for a Happy Life

15 Positive Thinking Books You Need for a Happy Life

Books give us the opportunity to live vicariously through the lives of people with greater wisdom than ourselves. They stimulate our brains and help us not only solve the problems we struggle with, but also motivate and inspire us with new ideas.

One of the great things about people who think positively and live happy lives is that they love to help others do the same. There are countless positive-thinking books and these 15 are a great way to help you start living a happy life.

1. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl

mans search for meaning

    This book goes through the horrific struggle of Viktor Frankl who survived holocaust concentration camps. The only thing that kept him going was his idea that everything, even the worst of human suffering, had to have meaning. If you’re struggling through anything in your life, I guarantee the words of Viktor will give you courage to press on and find happiness.

    2. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

    tuesday with morrie

       

      What is life’s greatest lesson? Morrie, a retired professor with a fatal disease, opts to use his predicament to share that message as opposed to just giving up and dying. Following the last few months of Morrie’s life will help you realize what is truly important in life.

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      3. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

      Lecture_Book

        Similar to Tuesdays with Morrie, Randy is a college professor who finds he has a fatal disease with only a few months to live. It is customary for professors at his university (Carnegie Mellon) to give a final lecture with the basis of ‘what wisdom would you impart to a large group of people if it was your last chance?’ Randy stays incredibly positive throughout and even keeps the lecture humorous and entertaining. Amidst it all, his wisdom is a powerful reminder about how to live a happy, full life.

        4. Earning Freedom by Michael Santos

        earning freedom

          Michael Santos was sentenced to 45 years is prison for selling drugs. During his term he fought hard to earn a masters degree and half of a doctorate (halted by the warden) while writing numerous books educating students about the criminal justice system. This book provides a fascinating window into his entire sentence (released in 2012) and how a positive attitude and strong work ethic got him through it. If he found happiness in prison through positive thinking, we can do it anywhere.

          If you don’t have the attention span to finish a long book, the following quick reads are shorter but just as powerful.

          5. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

          little engine that could

            This book has shaped childrens’ minds for years. It illustrates the undeniable fact that when you think positively and believe in yourself, you can accomplish extraordinary things.

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            6. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

            The_Giving_Tree

              Happiness is found in giving. What does it mean to love someone? What would you sacrifice for someone you love? This children’s book teaches a valuable lesson about unconditional love and what it truly means to be happy.

              7. The Dash by Linda Ellis and Mac Anderson

              the dash

                “When your life is over, everything you did will be represented by a single dash between two dates—what will that dash mean for the people you have known and loved?” (Linda Ellis) We don’t choose a lot of things about our life – parents, birthplace, etc. – but we can choose what that dash between those two dates means. This short book will give you a great perspective on making your life worthwhile.

                8. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

                As-a-Man-Thinketh

                  “The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state… Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.” (James Allen) This book might be short, but it is jam-packed with statements that will make you stop and think. We truly become what we think we are. Negative thoughts affect us more than we know. Positive thinking = happy life.

                  9. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald  Miller

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                  a-million-miles-in-a-thousand-years

                    You are the author of your story. No matter how boring or dull your life has been, you can always turn it around. Donald was in a rut in his life. He had no desire to get out of bed and found himself questioning the meaning of life. Eventually he realized he wasn’t a slave to a pre-written script. He used that mindset to turn around his thoughts, actions, and life. When the closing credits roll on the story of your life, what will people say? Never forget that you have the power to push your limits and live an interesting, happy life.

                    10. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

                    travelersgift

                      The Traveler’s Gift is a fictional story about a man who is overwhelmed with life and finds himself thrown into numerous true events from history – including Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He interacts and learns important life lessons from seven different experiences. The book is full of ways to think more positively and find more success in life.

                      11. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

                      david and goliath

                        Malcolm Gladwell motivates you to challenge your preconceptions of underdogs and misfits in this thought-provoking book. When you break down the facts in the story of David and Goliath from the Bible, you find that David really wasn’t an underdog at all – he was the one with the advantage. This book outlines story after story after story of people who were at a disadvantage and learned to find the strength in their weakness.

                        12. How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen

                        how will you measure

                          How would you feel if you got to the end of your life only to realize you had been measuring success wrong? Clayton provides a mass amount of wisdom and advice on how to live a life you won’t regret.

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                          13. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson

                          Dont_Sweat_Small_Stuff

                            The small things we worry about every day may not seem like a big deal, but they wear us down slowly and stop us from living up to our full potential. Learn how to get rid of those worries and negative thoughts and live a happier life.

                            14. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

                            mere christianity

                              C.S. Lewis, who used to be an Atheist, explains how he came to find meaning in life through Christianity. He breaks down all the reasons we doubt and falter in life and how living the principles of Christianity fixes our weaknesses. Lewis is famous for his deep, thought-provoking quotes and this book is no exception.

                              15. Bushido: The Way of the Samurai by Tsunetomo Yamamoto

                              bushido

                                Bushido is based on the Hagakure, a document that served as the basis for samurai warrior behavior. The document’s purpose was to shape the mind and the spirit of the samurai warrior.

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                                Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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