The fact that I struggled to come up with a joke to open this article is somewhat disconcerting, given the multiple studies that link being funny to above-average intelligence.
In one 2011 study, researchers at the University of New Mexico asked 400 psychology students to complete measures of abstract reasoning ability and verbal intelligence before writing captions for a series of New Yorker cartoons.
Sure enough, captions that were rated funnier belonged to students who scored higher on the tests of cognitive ability. In particular, students who scored high on the test of verbal intelligence were likely to produce funny captions.
Another study out of the University of New Mexico used a group of comedians to complete a similar procedure. Results showed that comedians not only produced more and funnier caption ideas than the students had, but also scored higher on the test of verbal intelligence, which generally correlates with overall intelligence.
Other research, published in the 1970s, looked at 55 male and 14 female comedians, and found that they scored significantly higher on IQ tests than the average population. Specifically, male comedians scored on average 138; female comedians scored on average 126. The average IQ score is between 90 and 110.
At least on some level, people may be aware that humour is a potential sign of intelligence, and may therefore be drawn to funnier mates. The University of New Mexico study that focused on students also found that funny people reported having had more sexual partners than their duller peers.
Of course, if you don’t have a knack for cracking people up, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not intelligent — or that you’ll never attract a romantic partner. A good sense of humour is just one trait among many that can signal above-average smarts.
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