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Is Laughter the Language of Love?

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Is Laughter the Language of Love?

Is the clearest path to a women heart is through a belly laugh? Recent studies seem to suggest it is and may well have confirmed a view held by at least half the world’s population, the more he succeeds in making a her laugh the more likely she’ll be open to that second date. However the reason for this and the part humour plays in romance have until now remained something of a mystery.

Ten years ago Professor Jeffrey Hall of Kansas University set out to explore the subject of love and laughter and uncover the links between humour and intelligence. The associate professor of communications has now gathered together the results of three studies in one article “Sexual selection and humour in courtship: A case for warmth and extroversion.” The results make for curious reading.

Professor Hall started by exploring two widely held beliefs; Men use humour to woo women and humour is an indicator of intelligence (after all funny people are often described as witty). Many in the scientific community have put these two beliefs together and speculated that deep down women are drawn to funny men because their humour spells intelligence.  Hall set out to test this.

In his very first study he used 35 participants to gauge the personalities of 100 strangers through their facebook profiles. He then had the facebook users evaluate themselves and compared the results. He found that what marked humorous people out was not their intelligence but their extroversion, funny people are more outgoing.

In study number two 300 students completed a survey on humour in courtship. On completion the student answers were then compared with their SAT and GPA scores (roughly the American equivalent of the leaving cert). The results found no connection between how funny people claim to be and how intelligent they really are. However, like the first study it did find a link between humour and extroversion.

At this point the professor decided to dig deeper again. Just what role does humour play in the game of courtship and romantic attraction?  In his final study he gathered 51 pairs of heterosexual collage students, none of whom had met previously. He sat each couple alone in a room and gave them ten minutes to mix and get to know each other. The inevitable follow up survey showed no difference in how often we use humour, with both men and women being just as likely to go for a laugh. This tally’s with the earlier studies which found that both genders post the same amount of humorous content on their facebook pages and found no difference in how we understand or appreciate humour.

However while there may be little to separate our sense of humour, how we react to someone who makes us laugh is entirely different. The study found that when a man succeeds in making a woman laugh she’s that bit more likely to express a romantic interest, but the same is not true in reverse. She might have him falling about the place in hysterics, but it still won’t mean he’s going to be ringing her later.

So what’s really happening here? Humour is clearly right at the heart of the age old quest of finding a partner, but why? After ten year and three studies Professor Hall has sifted through the data and come up with some likely answers.

He views male joking and female laughing as part of an age old courtship ritual. Hall says “The script is powerful and it is enduring, and it dictates everything from asking someone out to picking up the tab.” It seems the humour used in this romantic tango allows both parties to suss each other out and find that right one. “For some men it is a conscious strategy” So if she laughs at his jokes then chances are she’s interested. “Men are trying to get women to show their cards.”

Funny people tend to be more extroverted and it seems it’s that outgoing nature that draws people in, it points to a warmer personality and a more sociable nature. Hall says “Part of what it means to be social is the ability to joke along with people”. The professor’s studies support this and found that when both parties laughed together they were more interested in each other. “The idea that humour is a signal of intelligence doesn’t give humour its credit, if you find someone who you can laugh with, it might mean your future relationship is going to be fun and filled with good cheer.”

It seems its taken ten years and three studies to confirm the old saying, laugh and you’ll never laugh alone.


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