Why Men Have to be Funnier than Women

Scientists Ask: Why Are Men Funnier than Women?

Simply by looking at the highest paid and best known comedians, we should all suspect that men are funnier than women. But even among the population of average men and women, men are funnier. Scientists have long wondered about this “humour-gap” and went looking for the answer:

Humor is a complex phenomenon that involves social, emotional, physiological, cognitive, cultural and evolutionary influences, to name a few. One important aspect is the ability to make others laugh. Humor production ability is a distinct cognitive ability that is largely uncorrelated with appreciation and enjoyment of humor. When looking at who is the funnier sex, we focus then on humor production ability…

A new study I conducted with Paul Silvia and Emily Nusbaum from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro put the stereotype to the test. We systematically reviewed all available studies that looked at sex differences in humor ability, and using the statistical tool called meta-analysis, we calculated the difference. __ https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/humor-sapiens/201910/are-men-really-funnier-women

The research came to the conclusion that men are funnier. But when you consider why men have to be funnier, it all makes sense.

Results based on random-effects model revealed that men’s humor output was rated as funnier than women’s, with a combined effect size d = 0.321. Results were robust across various moderators and study characteristics, and multiple tests indicated that publication bias is unlikely. Both evolutionary and cultural explanations were considered and discussed.

Women… express a desire for mates that will make them laugh, much more than men do, corroborating the prediction that men try to advertise their humor ability, and women are the appreciators of humor.

women who have humorous partners did report having more and stronger vaginal orgasms, compared to women who have less funny partners, while men’s sexual satisfaction was not related to women’s HPA

__ Journal of Research in Personality Feb. 2020 Greengross, Silvia, Nusbaum

The above study was a meta-analysis of 28 different studies looking at disparity between male and female humour production. Here is one of the ways of teasing out the differences:

In many of the studies they looked at, men and women were asked to write a funny caption to accompany a cartoon – and then independent judges rated their funniness without knowing their gender. __ BBC

I don’t care what your political biases are, you have to admit that men are highly motivated to at least try to be funny. “No funny, no honey!” The effect of laughing in a woman is a lot like the effect of alcohol, on a woman’s frontal lobes. There is a natural intoxication . . . Things start to loosen up … And for the mating mechanisms to be properly lubricated, a good deal of loosening up in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is often called for.

University Humour

Even in the university classroom, male professors are rated as funnier than female professors:

Who’s funnier? Men, apparently. Male psychology professors, it seems, are particularly hilarious. Men are so funny, in fact, that even the most somber among them — that would be engineering professors — are funnier than most women, scoring 797 references per million words of text, a higher number than women in 16 other disciplines. __ Chronicle Higher Education

Perhaps male professors are playing up to their female students, subconsciously. That “funny bone” is difficult to turn off, apparently, at any age.

A Long Line of Funny Men

A facility with humour has to be placed alongside other proven aphrodisiacs that work on women, such as power, the appearance of wealth, alcohol, and other triggers of the dopamine reward-anticipation network of the brain.

Dopamine Signals
Neurophysiological activations of dopamine neurons following primary rewards and conditioned, reward-predicting stimuli, physically intense stimuli, risk, and primary and conditioned aversive stimuli. Horizontal bars indicate 500 ms in all panels. Data are from [4,9,10,26]. h-eog, horizontal electro-oculogram.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2948345/

Most men are descended from a long line of “funny men.” It must be so, for their male ancestors to have been successful at mating.

Such things are rarely discussed in those famous “son and pop” conversations as boys grow into men. But perhaps they should be. Boys need to understand what they will be up against in the great evolutionary sweepstakes of life.

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4 Responses to Why Men Have to be Funnier than Women

  1. matthewpmusson says:

    I was surprised to learn that we have twice as many female ancestors as male ancestors. On average every woman has one child. But, half of men never reproduced. Clearly men must try harder.

  2. bob sykes says:

    Another example of sexual selection. By the way, it is estimated that 30% of the men in the Asian steppe have genes from Genghis Khan.

    The series Marco Polo on Netflix emphasizes the Khan and is a great show.

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  4. jimofjimsblog says:

    Everyone has genes from everyone, sufficiently far back. What you meant to say is that thirty percent of the men in the Asian steppe have Genghis Khan’s Y chromome and are therefore descended Genghis Khanin the male line

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