Predictably Irrational

Investigating the Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions

Who Enjoys Humor More: Conservatives or Liberals?

Do conservatives appreciate humor more than liberals?

Jake is about to chip onto the green at his local golf course when a long funeral procession passes by. He stops in mid swing, doffs his cap, closes his eyes and bows in prayer. His playing companion is deeply impressed. "That's the most thoughtful and touching thing I've ever seen," he says. Jake replies, "Yeah, well, we were married 35 years."

Who do you think will find this joke funnier: liberals or conservatives?

Common stereotypes link the word "liberal" with words such as open-mindedness, tolerance, and impartiality, while the word "conservative" is linked with tradition, caution, and conventional values. Given these associations we might expect that liberals will appreciate, and respond more to humor and jokes than conservatives. This was certainly our expectation going into this project, but, is this really the case?

To look into this question we approached 285 individuals in public places in Boston, asking them to answer a few questions about their political beliefs, and most importantly to rate how funny they found 22 jokes (see all jokes below). Some of the jokes we used were more funny, some were less funny, and in general they fell into seven categories: race, religion, golf, employment, Jack Handey's deep thoughts, marriage, and family. Participants were asked to rate each joke on a scale from 1 (not funny at all) to 9 (hilarious).

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At the end we had 140 self declared liberals and 145 self declared conservatives, and the results were not at all what we expected. As it turned out conservatives gave significantly higher rating to the jokes in each of the seven categories (see table below)!

So, is the stereotype of liberals as being funnier completely off? When we asked our respondents to self-report how funny they are, liberals indicated that they were funnier. This means that liberals are not finding life to be funnier, but they think they are.

What is the moral of all of this? I think it is that conservatives might not be as closed minded as we might expect, at least not in terms of humor.

By Elisabeth Malin and Dan Ariely
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And here are the jokes we used (not all of them are funny...)

* Marriage jokes

A father and his son go into the drug store when they happen upon the condom aisle. The son asks his father why there are so many different boxes of condoms.
The father replies, "Well, you see that 3 pack? That's for when you're in high school. You have 2 for Friday night and 1 for Saturday night."
Nodding agreement, the son asks his father, "Then what's the 6 pack for?"
"That's for when you're in college," the father says. "You have 2 for Friday night, 2 for Saturday night, and 2 for Sunday morning."
Following this line of logic, the son enthusiastically asks what the 12 pack is for.
"That's for when you're married, son. You have one for January, one for February, one for March . . ."

Jake is about to chip onto the green at his local golf course when a long funeral procession passes by. He stops in mid swing, doffs his cap, closes his eyes and bows in prayer. His playing companion is deeply impressed. "That's the most thoughtful and touching thing I've ever seen," he says. Jake replies, "Yeah, well, we were married 35 years."

Husband: When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?
Wife: I clean the toilet bowl.
Husband: How does that help?
Wife: I use your toothbrush.

* Family jokes

The father calls his son a few days before Christmas.
"Son, I am sorry to inform you, but your mother and I are getting a divorce."
"What, are you crazy? Did you tell my sister in Chicago yet?"
"No, I did not. Please call her. It is too painful for me."
"Dad, I am calling her right now and we shall both be in New York tomorrow."
The father hangs up the phone and shouts to his wife who is in the kitchen:
"Hey, Rose, both kids will be here for the holiday and they are paying for their own tickets this time."

A mother and her young son returned from the grocery store and began putting away the groceries. The boy opened the box of animal crackers and spread them all over the table.
"What are you doing?" his mother asked.
"You can't eat them if the seal is broken" the boy explained, "I'm looking for the seal."

An Old Italian Mafia Don is dying. He calls his grandson to his bedside.
"Grandson, I wanna you lissina to me. I wanna for you to taka my chrome plated .38 revolver so you will always remember me."
"But grandpa, I really don't like guns. How about you leave me your Rolex watch instead?"
"You lissina me. Somma day you gonna be runna da business, you gonna have a beautiful wife, lotsa money, a big home and maybe a coupla bambinos. Somma day you gonna coma home and maybe finda your wife inna bed with another man. Whatta you gonna do then... pointa to your watch and say, ‘Times Up?'"

* Racial jokes

A young woman comes to her parents' home with a tall African guy, with huge gold rings hanging from his ears and nose. The father screams at her: "I told you to marry a RICH doctor."

What do you call 4 Mexicans swimming across the ocean? QUATTRO SINKO!

A black woman was filling out forms at the welfare office. Under "Number of children," she wrote "10," and where it said "List names of children," she wrote "Leroy." When she handed in the form, the woman behind the desk pointed out: "Now here where it says ‘List names of children,' you're supposed to write the names of each one of your children." "Dey all named Leroy," said the black woman. "That's very unusual. When you call them, how do they know which one you want?" asked the welfare worker. "Oh, den I uses the last names."

* Religious jokes

The priest was walking down the street looking sad.
"What happened," asked a parishioner?
"I am afraid someone from the parish stole my umbrella."
"Here's what you do, priest. Next sermon talk about the 10 commandments and look around when you quote ‘thou shall not steal' and see who bows his head in shame."
Next week the priest walks happily down the avenue, twirling his umbrella.
The smart parishioner says "I see my advice worked."
"Not exactly," said the priest, "when I reached ‘Thou shall not commit adultery', I remembered where I forgot it."

After many years, a young Talmud student who had left the old country for America returns to visit the family.
"But- where is your beard?" asks his mother upon seeing him.
"Mama," he replies, "In America, nobody wears a beard."
"But at least you keep the Sabbath," mama asks.
"Mama, business is business. In America, everybody works on the Sabbath."
"But kosher food you still eat?" asks mama.
"Mama, in America, it is very difficult to keep kosher."
The old lady ponders this information and then leans over and whispers in his ear, "Isaac, tell me, are you still circumcised?"

Jack and Max are walking from religious service. Jack wonders whether it would be all right to smoke while praying.
Max replies, "Why don't you ask the Priest?"
So Jack goes up to the Priest and asks, "Father, may I smoke while I pray?"
The Priest replies, "No, my son, you may not! That's utter disrespect to our religion."
Jack goes back to his friend and tells him what the good Priest told him.
Max says, "I'm not surprised. You asked the wrong question. Let me try."
And so Max goes up to the Priest and asks, "Father, may I pray while I smoke?"
To which the Priest eagerly replies, "By all means, my son. By all means. You can always pray whenever you want to."

* Golf jokes

A retiree was given a set of golf clubs by his co-workers
Thinking he'd try the game, he asked the local pro for lessons, explaining that he knew nothing whatever of the game.
The pro showed him the stance and swing, then said "Just hit the ball toward the flag on the first green."
The novice teed up and smacked the ball straight down the fairway and onto the green, where it stopped inches from the hole.
"Now what?" the fellow asked the speechless pro.
"Uh...you're supposed to hit the ball into the cup" the pro finally said, after he was able to speak again.
The retiree replied, "Oh great! NOW you tell me!"

Many years ago, in Scotland, a new game was invented.
It was ruled "Gentlemen Only...Ladies Forbidden" ...and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

A couple met at Hilton Head and fell in love. They were discussing how they would continue the relationship after their vacations were over. "It's only fair to warn you, Jody, I'm a golf nut. I live, eat, sleep and breathe golf."
"Well, since you're being honest, so will I," she said. "I'm a hooker."
"I see," said Bill as he thought for a moment. "Well, it's probably because you're not keeping your wrists straight when you hit the ball."

* Employment jokes

Mujibar was applying for a job in India. The Personnel Manager said, "Mujibar, you have passed all the tests, except one." Mujibar said, "I am ready." The manager said, "Make a sentence using the words Yellow, Pink and Green." Mujibar thought for a few minutes and said, "Mister manager, I am ready." The manager said, "Go ahead." Mujibar said, "The telephone goes green, green, and I pink it up, and say, ‘Yellow, this is Mujibar.'"
The manager: you got the job.

The Ten Commandments of Employment
1. If it rings, put it on hold.
2. If it clunks, call the repairman.
3. If it whistles, ignore it.
4. If it's a friend, stop work and chat.
5. If it's the boss, look busy.
6. If it talks, take notes.
7. If it's handwritten, type it.
8. If it's typed, copy it.
9. If it's copied, file it.
10. If it's Friday, forget it!

A shopkeeper was dismayed when a brand new business much like his own opened up next door and erected a huge sign which read ‘BEST DEALS.'
He was horrified when another competitor opened up on his right, and announced its arrival with an even larger sign, reading ‘LOWEST PRICES.'
The shopkeeper panicked, until he got an idea. He put the biggest sign of all over his own shop. It read: ‘MAIN ENTRANCE.'

Employer: "In this job we need someone who is responsible."
Applicant: "I'm the one you want. On my last job, every time anything went wrong, they said I was responsible."

Deep Thoughts (by Jack Handey)
I think there should be something in science called the "reindeer effect." I don't know what it would be, but I think it'd be good to hear someone say, "Gentlemen, what we have here is a terrifying example of the reindeer effect."

It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong, though. It's Hambone.

Dan Ariely is a behavioral scientist at MIT and the author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions.

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