Who’s Funnier, Men or Women?

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(Time Healthland) Study Asks Who’s Funnier, Men or Women?

By Sora Song Monday, October 24, 2011 | 15 Comments

(Updated) If men are funnier than women, then it’s not by much — and mostly just to other men. Such is the conclusion of a new study by psychologists at the University of California, San Diego, who judged comic wit by asking students to write original captions for New Yorker cartoons.

Setting aside the fact that writing New Yorker cartoon captions is notoriously difficult, even for people who do funny for a living, and setting aside the question of whether caption-writing is really the best barometer of “funny” in the natural world, researchers asked 32 undergrads, split evenly between males and females, to come up with captions for 20 cartoons in 45 minutes and “to be as funny as possible.”

The 640 resulting captions were then judged in a series of knockout contests. For each cartoon, the captions were randomly paired up and pitted against each other (the writers were kept anonymous), with readers — 34 male and 47 female students — choosing the funnier of each successive pair. Round 1 included 32 captions, whittled down to 16 survivors; Round 2 shrank that pool to eight, and so on. The further each caption advanced, the higher its score, earning 1 point for each round.

Overall, the study found, men’s captions did better than women’s, by a nose, scoring just 0.11 points higher — a margin that was “just at the edge of detectability,” as co-author Nicholas Christenfeld, a UCSD professor of psychology, noted. That slight advantage was due largely to the fact that men found other men’s humor funnier than women did. On average, male raters gave male writers’ jokes 0.16 more points, while female raters gave only 0.06 points more to male-written captions.

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Also see How Normal Is Money?Laughter Goes A Long Way, Is Solving a Problem Easier When It Belongs to Someone Else?Can Laughter Make You Smarter? and How Does Kneeling Down Help You Remember?

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