Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Laugh Lab

I stumbled upon a really cool research project called "Laugh Lab." It was created by a professor at the University of Hertfordshire in England. Here are some of his findings.

1. Differences between males and females in terms of the jokes they found funny:

Huge differences emerged between the jokes most favoured by males and females. Males’ top jokes involved aggression, putting women down and sexual innuendo. In contrast, females preferred jokes involving word plays.

"These findings reflect fundamental differences in the ways in which males and females use humour" said Dr Wiseman. "Males use humour to appear superior to others, whilst women are more linguistically skilled and prefer word-puns."

2. Differences between nations in terms of the jokes they found funny:

People from The Republic of Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand expressed a strong preference for jokes involving word plays, such as:

Patient: “Doctor, I've got a strawberry stuck up my bum.”

Doctor: “I've got some cream for that.

Americans and Canadians much preferred gags where there was a sense of superiority – either because a person looked stupid, or was made to look stupid by another person, such as:

Texan: “Where are you from?”

Harvard grad: “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions.”

Texan: “Okay – where are you from, jackass?”

Finally, many European countries, such as France, Denmark and Belgium, liked jokes that were somewhat surreal, such as:

An Alsatian went to a telegram office, took out a blank form and wrote:

“Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.”

The clerk examined the paper and politely told the dog: “There are only nine words here. You could send another ‘Woof’ for the same price.”

“But,” the dog replied, “that would make no sense at all.”

These European countries also enjoyed jokes that involved making light of topics that often make us feel anxious, such as death, illness, and marriage. For example:

A patient says: “Doctor, last night I made a Freudian slip, I was having dinner with my mother-in-law and wanted to say: 'Could you please pass the butter,' but instead I said: 'You silly cow, you have completely ruined my life.'"

Interestingly, Germany was the exception. Germans did not express a strong preference for any type of joke - this may well explain why they came first in our league table of funniness – they do not have any strong preferences and so tend to find a wide spectrum of jokes funny.

These results are really interesting – it suggests that people from different parts of the world have fundamentally different senses of humour. Humour is vital to communication and the more we understand about how people’s culture and background affect their sense of humour, the more we will be able to communicate effectively.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

This is a really interesting post!

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