Why Science Says Humor is Important to Every Relationship

This is a guest post by Joel Warner, the co-author with Peter McGraw of the brand new book called The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. I had the great chance to review a copy of the book in the fall, and fell in love with it.

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A quick summary?

Part road-trip comedy and part social science experiment, a scientist and a journalist detail their epic quest across 19 countries to discover the secret behind what makes things funny.

See the video trailer here.

And also, it’s funny. (But maybe that goes without saying.)

Enter Joel.


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When was the last time you were successfully wooed by a funny pick-up line? It’s probably been a long time—if ever. But according to science, humor really does make us attracted to one another. A survey of 700 men and women discovered that people considered humor among the most important of all characteristics when choosing a partner, romantic or otherwise. And studies of happy marriages, especially those lasting more than half century, find spouses often ascribe their marital bliss in part to laughing together.

Interestingly, the kind of humor you find attractive appears to differ depending on your gender. In 2011, researchers analyzed more than 250 online dating profiles posted by people in London and several Canadian cities. They found that men were nearly two times as likely to boast of their humor-production abilities (“I’m an aspiring stand-up comic”), whereas women were nearly two times as likely to be looking for a humor producer (“I want someone who can make me giggle”).

The discrepancy makes sense from a sexual-selection standpoint. A sense of humor in men could be seen as a sign of intelligence, social desirability, and overall genetic fitness. In other words, good jokes are a guy’s version of colorful peacock plumes. Since women have an evolutionary incentive to find the best possible mate, it helps to be on the lookout for the funniest possible peacock.

Humor is such an aphrodisiac, in fact, that it can even signal doom for a relationship. Studies have found that dating couples who exhibit strong senses of humor are more likely than others to break up. As paradoxical as that sounds, this makes sense. Since humor is such a highly regarded trait, it’s more likely that others will be enticed by these attractively funny people, and lure them away from their partners.

In other words, there may be biological incentives for men to joke around more than women. But before you take that to mean that guys are funnier than ladies, remember that just because someone jokes around a lot, that doesn’t mean all those jokes are funny. The secret to comedy, after all, is quality, not comedy;)

Joel Warner is co-author with Peter McGraw of The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny.

How important do you think humor is in your relationships? Is it a priority for you in forming and deepening your connections?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Why Science Says Humor is Important to Every Relationship

  1. Hey claire,
    Nice post and Yes, humor is very important factor for every relationship as it help in keep balancing our relationship and helps in understanding our partners. Thanks for sharing this post.