Are funny people more attractive?
Or does being attractive make you appear
What is the purpose of humour?
Some answers in this new research study may
have you smiling.
Devika Misra explains.
Yup.... we've long tried to figure out who's
attracted to whom and why.
We thought that funny people are more
Turns out....maybe we have the order
"Whats new is that we looked at the reverse
of this, that being attractive to someone can
make you appear funnier to them, that means that
if you find me attractive even before I've said
anything then when I do say something you'll
probably react positively and think that I'm
funny. On the other hand if you're clearly not
attracted to me then if I initiated humour you
probably wouldn't laugh or think that I was
Professor Norman Li's is at SMU's School of
He conducted his research on a sample of
about five hundred people in the United Sates
and found that humour serves an important
"The overall research question that we're
trying to address is what is humour ultimately
for you know, 'cos we kind of know that it makes
us feel good and all that but what is it
ultimately for? Is there a bigger picture
purpose? So just as you might ask what is love,
sex, jealousy or anger ultimately for so why
does our species have this capability?"
Professor Li says our species has this
capability apparently to allow people to at
least indicate the direction of their interest
and engage the other person's interest.
When you first meet somebody, you're probably
not sure if they should be your life long
partner, friend, or business associate.
So be mindful of your interaction as it
If you're laughing, you are likely to want to
pursue the relationship.
But it's not only in the initial stages that
humour is a leading indicator.
It's there for the long haul, so watch out
for it if you want to know whether the other
person's still interested.
Does your spouse of ten years still laugh at
"Humour may be a nice way to lighten things
up and to relieve stress but again I'm proposing
the reverse. That somebody whose interested in
maintaining an existing relationship will be
more likely to initiate the humour and to
respond favourably to the other persons humuor.
As an example, a large majority of women who are
satisfied with their marriages think that their
husbands have a good sense of humour. Does that
mean that it takes a skilled comedian to satisfy
a partner? Probably not, you know most of these
men are just regular guys and its because their
marriages are good for other reasons that their
wives are more likely to think that their
husbands are funny."
Ok...so now we understand why its often an
"inside" joke; the two of them are just cracking
up and the rest of the us... really don't get
"Something like ninety percent of all
laughter occurs between people that is not
discernibly funny to outsiders. This suggests
that something doesn't really have to be a
recognised type of humour to be interpreted as
funny and this is consistent with humour's
underlying purpose of simply communicating some
kind of interest."
Professor Li observes that often for men, a
good sense of humour means that women laugh at
what they say.
"Man have always tended to be the ones to
initiate the romantic relationships and take the
initiative so they've also tended to be the ones
who've initiated the humour. When you're
interacting in large group humour initiators
tend to be the dominant one and people who are
laughing tend to be people indicating their
acceptance of the initiators viewpoint or
dominance.. So of a women initiates humour it
implies that shes the one initiating interest in
a relationship or shes the one in charge of the
group which tends to go against what people
naturally feel comfortable with especially in an
Due to this close connection between humour
and dominance, Professor Li says that it will
prevail only in situations and relationships
that are flexible.
" If you think of a situation where theres an
arranged marriage or theres a fixed parent child
relationship in which the child is always
subordinate to the parents then the relationship
is not really negotiable, its already there and
its fixed so those kind of people should use
less humour in those types of relationships but
whereas in a situation where relationships can
come and go and they change and one person gets
power and then the other person does and all
that then you would expect more humour."
Professor Li's research was published in the
July issue of the American academic journal,
Personality and Social Psychology bulletin.
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