Humour is the genesis of all romance: study

Try cracking a witty joke and laugh your way into the heart of your lady love because humour can pave the way for romance.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2006 11:11 IST

If you get tongue tied on a date, try cracking a witty joke and laugh your way into the heart of your lady love, for a new study has found that humour can pave the way for romance.

The idea that funny people are attractive may seem obvious. But there have been very few scientific studies to examine whether or not this is true.

Eric Bressler of Westfield State College, Massachusetts, and colleague Sigal Balshine of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, did this by asking more than 200 male and female college students to examine photos of members of the opposite sex.

Women ranked the humorous men as better potential partners, the researchers found and as more friendly, fun and popular. Men's view of a woman, on the other hand, appeared to be uninfluenced by a lady's wit.

Bressler suspected that men and women do, in fact, both value a sense of humour in a mate, but that they might be looking for slightly different things, women valuing an ability to be funny and men valuing an ability to see the joke.

In a second study, Bressler and his colleagues asked nearly 130 students to imagine two people of the opposite sex. One fictional character was funny; the other appreciated another person's humour. The team then asked each student which they would choose for a relationship.

Women generally preferred men who were funny, while men favoured a woman who thought he was funny, the team report in a second paper accepted for publication.

Bressler believes that the findings might hint at why humans have evolved a sense of humour at all.

According to one theory, proposed by psychologist Geoffrey Miller at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, women prefer funny men because their wit reveals an active and healthy brain - and a fine set of underlying genes. "It's a very powerful and reliable way to show creativity and intelligence," Miller says.

If this theory holds true, a woman choosing a funny man as a partner is more likely to have genetically healthy children who will survive and reproduce themselves. This so-called sexual selection could, in some circumstances, favour women who like humorous men, and men who like women with an appreciation for humour.

The entire idea remains speculative, however. And this particular study only looked at humour in North American college students.

But as biologists identify more and more human genes, Miller suggests that they might find ones that contribute in the brain to both a sense of humour and broader mental health.

First Published: Jan 25, 2006 11:11 IST