Friday, November 18, 2011

Are Men or Women Funnier? Who Says So Anyway?

An article in a psychology journal reported research that said men are perceived to be slightly funnier that women. The research involved joke-telling and putting captions on cartoons. The gender of the joke teller or cartoon captioner was not disclosed. Both male and female listener/responders saw men as funnier. A theory; men use humor as seduction of women. Like the peacock's beautiful tail, humor might turn on unfunny women? Women really value a sense of humor?

A second study found that it was mostly men who found men funnier, giving a big NO to the peacock theory. Men also used more sexual innuendo and profanity than women, not surprisingly. Both sexes tended to misattributed funny jokes and comments to men and unfunny ones to women.

Most telling for me was that women were much less confident about their abilities as humorists than men. Now that makes sense. Theory: women are perceived as less funny because while they're trying to be funny, their negative self-talk is convincing them that they aren't, can't be, and never will be? It's impossible to be funny without confidence. It's a big risk. Women are often over serious in their attempt to be taken seriously. Here's another reason that self-deprecating humor is rarely effective for women — unless you're a big shot and you want to shine off a bit of power.

Lots of h-m-m-m-ms? here.

In real life when a group of female friends go out for dinner, I bet they think other women are very funny ( and probably are in fact more confident) than those in a research study. Also true for men. But in a mixed group I would guess that men still see themselves as funnier, women still see themselves as not so funny. And women would see men as not so funny too, but probably wouldn't say so. The women would still be less confident of their abilities.

Generally in my experience, men don't get or appreciate a lot of women's humor — maybe because some of it is negative about men. Women generally get men's humor because it often lacks subtleties, but may not like it anyway,
 because they see it as aggressive or a put-down.

Most people really like a sense of humor in others and in themselves. It's definitely worth cultivating! What do you think about gender differences in humor? Here's a link to an earlier post about men/women and humor.
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1 comment:

  1. I heard some of this research discussed in the news and it was good to just think about humor. I agree that women have a hard time pulling off self-deprecating humor without looking like they lack self-confidence. I love to tell stories about stupid things I do that are funny - people often take it wrong and think I'm too hard on myself.

    One of my favorite images of the week was seeing Secr. of State Clinton bursting out in laughter when she saw a nearly-naked man walking by her at a formal gathering. It's good for all of us to not always take ourselves so seriously.


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