Humor processing and production is already considered to be an adaptive quality associated with highly intellectual individuals, and in a study done in 2011, demonstrated that “men were funnier than women on average”, and correlated positively to mating success (Greengross & Miller, 2011). Furthermore, studies have shown that individuals with higher depression scores are unable to use jokes and humor cognition as a way to cope with stressful life events (Deaner & McConatha, 1993).
However, while everyone prefers a comical and smart romantic partner, what about people that find sadistic, dark humor jokes funny? Are these people just as smart as the rest of us, or are they just twisted psychopaths?
In a recent study by the University of Vienna published in the quarterly journal – “Cognitive Processing” has proven that individuals that were more amused by dark humor, scored higher on verbal and nonverbal IQ tests (Willinger et all., 2017)
The study consisted of 156 participants, 80 men and 76 women, in which they were exposed to cartoons from Uli Steins ‘The Black Book’. Most of the cartoons had topics such as death and physical handicaps, and subjects were asked to rate the cartoons on a four point Likert Scale based on these seven categories; 1.Difficulty to understand, 2. how well the punchline fit the build up, 3. how vulgar the joke was, 4. how surprised you were at the jokes punchline, 5. How novel the joke was in terms of originality 6. how interesting the topic was, and 7. how much do you like the joke.
To evaluate the subjects, participants were also asked to complete a ‘Vocabulary Test’ to assess verbal intelligence (Schmidt & Metzler, 1992), a ‘Number Connection Test’ to assess nonverbal intelligence (Oswald & Roth, 1997), and a culture-free intelligence test to assess cognitive performance and nonverbal IQ. A test on the participants aggressiveness was also issued, along with a mood disturbance test, to test the overall temperament of the participant.
Results found three distinct groups from the tests provided. The first group had rated the highest amusement from the dark humor comics, and also had the highest intelligence scores on the IQ tests. These individuals from this group had a higher average education, and were less aggressive. Those from a second group scored moderately for dark humor preference and aggression, and also had an average IQ score. The third group had the least preference for the dark humor jokes, and an average IQ, but had the highest scoring aggression levels.
The findings from this study correlates with other studies done on IQ and humor, and it’s proven that those who enjoyed these comics the most have a higher cognitive ability to discern between truly appalling jokes, and mischievous dark humor. This experiment proves that those who enjoy sick jokes aren’t just sick, sadistic psychopaths, but are actually highly educated, and relaxed individuals who can have a light hearted chuckle at a silly dark joke, such as this:
Thanks for reading! 🙂
Deaner, S. L., & McConatha, J. T. (1993). The relation of humor to depression and personality. Psychological Reports, 72(3), 755-763.
Greengross, G., & Miller, G. (2011). Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males. Intelligence, 39(4), 188-192.
Oswald, W. D., & Roth, E. (1997). Zahlenverbindungstest (Trail-making-test).
Schmidt, K. H., & Metzler, P. (1992). Wortschatztest: WST. Beltz.
Willinger, U., Hergovich, A., Schmoeger, M., Deckert, M., Stoettner, S., Bunda, I., … & Jaeckle, D. (2017). Cognitive and emotional demands of black humour processing: the role of intelligence, aggressiveness and mood. Cognitive processing, 1-9.