Funny People Have Higher IQs: Here's Why Humor and Intelligence Go Hand in Hand

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Charlie Chaplin eating a shoe in the famous sketch from "The Gold Rush." FoodCultura/Flickr

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Albert Einstein attributed his brilliant mind to having a childlike sense of humor. Indeed, a number of studies have found an association between humor and intelligence.

Researchers in Austria recently discovered that funny people, particularly those who enjoy dark humor, have higher IQs than their less funny peers. They argue that it takes both cognitive and emotional ability to process and produce humor. Their analysis shows that funny people have higher verbal and nonverbal intelligence, and they score lower in mood disturbance and aggressiveness.

Not only are funny people smart, they’re nice to be around. Evidence suggests that having a good sense of humor is linked to high emotional intelligence and is a highly desirable quality in a partner. Evolutionary psychologists describe humor as a “heritable trait” that signals mental fitness and intellectual agility to prospective mates. In studies of attractiveness, both men and women rate funny people as more attractive, and cite having a good sense of humor as being one of the most important traits in a long-term partner.

In psychology, we use the term “positive humor style” to refer to people who use humor to enhance relationships and reduce conflict. This type of humor is associated with relationship satisfaction, extroversion and high self-esteem Having a humorous outlook on life is also a good coping strategy. It helps people better manage stress and adversity.

More negative humor styles, such as sarcasm, ridicule and self-defeating humor, do not offer the same benefits. Instead, they tend to alienate people and are more often associated with depressed mood and aggression.

Not only do funny people make other people laugh, they also laugh more themselves. And neurobiology shows that laughter leads to brain changes, which may explain the link between humor and intelligence.

Neuropsychological studies have found that experiencing positive emotional states, such as joy, fun and happiness, increases the production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine not only make us feel great, it also opens up the learning centers of the brain, which enables and sustains more neural connections. As a result, we become more flexible and creative in our thinking, and better at solving problems. It also boosts our working memory.

Humor for success

Evidence suggests that humor actually boosts perceptions of confidence, competence and status, making funny people very influential. Humor gets people to listen, helps communicate messages and aids learning. It is a powerful tool that many successful leaders use to enhance group cohesiveness and organizational culture. Studies of positive organizations suggest the more fun we have at work, the more productive we are, and the less likely we are to suffer burnout.

The “broaden and build” theory also supports the idea that experiencing positive emotions through humor actually alters our thoughts, actions and physiological responses. It creates a virtuous circle effect that enhances well-being.

Research on the use of humor in education also supports the notion that humor is an effective aid to learning. Several studies have demonstrated that lessons that are delivered with humor are more enjoyable for students, and also enhance students' comprehension and recall of the topic.

Given the host of benefits that being funny brings, perhaps we could all benefit from joining a stand-up comedy workshop. It seems like the smart thing to do.

Lowri Dowthwaite is a lecturer in psychological interventions at the University of Central Lancashire, U.K. 

 

The Conversation

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