NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Are men really funnier than women? Christopher Hitchens thinks so, and while he got a lot of flack from female comedians for it, scientific research may be on his side on this one.
According to a study from the University of California, San Diego, the answer is yes, men are funnier than women. But not by much.
The study focused on the stereotypes normally associated with gender and humor, with the conventional wisdom that men are louder and more boisterous, while women are more insightful and have a dryer wit.
Study author Laura Mickes, a post-doctorate researcher in the university’s school of psychology, associates men’s humor with male mating habits. Popular convention has it that men use their humor like a peacock that flashes his colors or a stag that proudly displays his antlers. The study revealed that while some of those stereotypes are true, it doesn’t mean that they are laugh-out-loud funnier than women.
"The differences we find between men's and women's ability to be funny are so small that they can't account for the strength of the belief in the stereotype,” says Mickes.
In the study, published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Mickes gave a group of 32 men and women (16 of each gender) a test and found that 90% of survey participants supported the stereotype that men were funnier than women.
The researchers used an interesting test – they asked each survey participant to write a caption for 20 New Yorker cartoon illustrations with the encouragement to be “as funny as possible”. In a separate experiment, researchers asked 34 men and 47 women to rate the captioned New Yorker cartoons.
In that portion of the test, men edged out women by 0.11 points on a 5-point scale. There was some evidence that men were better able to be “funny on command”, as the researchers phrase it, and men were categorized as having a better sense of humor more by other men than by women.
“Sad for the guys,” said co-researcher Nicholas Christenfeld, a UC San Diego professor of psychology, in a statement. “[Men] think that by being funny they will impress the ladies, but really just impress other men who want to impress the ladies."
Another key takeaway: In the second phase of the test, when the 80 students “graded” the cartoon captions, most of them couldn’t tell whether a man or a woman wrote a caption they found humorous. The research also revealed that men tried harder to be funny and were more likely (albeit slightly so) to use vulgar language to get their humor across, and were more confident they would be rated higher on the humor scale than women.
The study takes great pains to say that its results showed men were “barely” funnier than women, but if the data is true, men are more likely than women to make water spew out your nuse during a conversation around the water cooler.