Saturday, September 03, 2005

Ciencia: Are women as funny as men?

Pushing caveats, cans of worms and potential minefields briskly to one side, a paucity of data suggests that men get more laughs than women. "I think it's more that their humour is different," says Richard Wiseman, psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire.
This week, Laura Solon won the Perrier Comedy award, becoming only the second woman to do so in the past 25 years.
Gender differences in humour is a poorly studied area, but in his 2000 book, Laughter, Robert Provine, a psychologist at the University of Maryland reported studies that assessed how men and women reacted to jokes cracked by the same or the opposite sex. He found that in one-on-one situations, 60% of men laughed at jokes made by other men, but only 38% laughed at women. According to the study, the sexual disparity was mirrored in females, with 71% of women laughing at males but only half laughing at quips made by women. "What his research seems to be saying is that women are the laughers and men get the laughs," says Wiseman.
Provine suggests that the reason for the difference could lie in social status, with traditionally compliant females and dominant males. In another study, senior staff at a hospital got more laughs than juniors.
The lack of women picking up the Perrier award might simply come down to numbers, though. "Comedians are really choosing a job that demands control of an audience and that assertive and even aggressive behaviour is stereotypically a more male trait," says Wiseman.
Solon agrees: "I think sense of humour is incredibly varied across age groups and gender, it's a very individual thing."

Ian Sample//The Guardian

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