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Does Being Funny Online Make You More Attractive?

Attempts to be funny online may work against you.

Key points

  • One important characteristic in a potential romantic partner is a sense of humour.
  • Humour generally equates with intelligence and therefore attractiveness.
  • Expressions of humour through status updates such as ‘Haha’ and ‘LoL’ were associated with lower intelligence levels.
  • Humour production was associated with higher levels of extroversion.
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Clown man
Source: Vidi studio/Shutterstock

It is estimated that single people in their twenties and thirties spend on average around 90 minutes per day using dating apps. Furthermore, research indicates that in the U.S., about 33% of all marriages result from an encounter which began online (Cacioppo, Cacioppo, Gonzaga, Ogburn, & VanderWeele, 2013). In addition, social media sites are also becoming more common as a platform for meeting romantic partners (Cacioppo et al, 2013). All of this is testimony to the importance of online communication in initiating and sustaining a romantic relationship. Indeed, in an online environment where visual cues are less evident, it is how people communicate and interact which begins to have more salience in a potential dating liaison.

In addition to this, it has long been agreed that a sense of humour is one of the most desirable traits sought by those seeking a relationship, and therefore it is important to be able to communicate this online when interacting with a potential date. Certainly, in online dating profiles we often see the acronym GSOH (Good Sense of Humour), which is evidence that people are looking for a sense of humour or attempting to communicate that they possess one themselves. One reason for this is that it is generally more rewarding to be in the company of someone with a cheerful disposition, although other reasons have been advanced as to why having a good sense of humour is a desirable characteristic. For example, much previous research has suggested that humour may be an indicator of intelligence in men, which has the effect of making them more attractive.

Researcher Jeffrey Hall sought to investigate the extent to which humour is related to intelligence in three studies, one of which (described here) assessed peoples’ use of Facebook profiles as a means through which to generate humour (Hall, 2015).

Participants in this study allowed the researcher to download their Facebook profiles, which included their eight most recent profile pictures, their ‘about’ information, and any recent timeline posts. These profiles were stored as PDF files. Participants then completed an online questionnaire which assessed their humour orientation (e.g. “I regularly tell jokes when in groups”; “People usually laugh when I tell jokes or funny stories”). Finally, the participants completed measures of extroversion, agreeableness and intelligence.

Independent observers then assessed the participants’ Facebook profiles for extroversion, agreeableness, intelligence, and humour orientation. Humour orientation was measured in terms of how the observer assessed each participant (“this person regularly tells jokes” etc). Observers were also presented with a PDF file for each participant and looked for humour cues in the photos, their ‘About’ page, comments in their status updates, and responses such as ‘LOL’ and ‘Haha’. Observers also rated the personality and intelligence of the participants.

Intelligence

Overall, the results revealed that humour production by participants was not related to their self-reported levels of intelligence. Furthermore, although participants with a higher score on humour orientation were more likely to have more humorous pictures, status updates, or quotes in their profiles, none of these things was related to the observers’ judgments of participants’ intelligence. In fact, expressions of humour through status updates which included comments such as ‘Haha’ and ‘LoL’ were associated with lower intelligence levels in the participants.

Personality

In terms of personality characteristics, the participants’ levels of extroversion were found to be related to their self-reported levels of humour production. Similarly, observers’ judgments of participants’ humour production were also associated with higher levels of participants’ extroversion.

The personality trait of agreeableness was related to participants’ efforts to generate humour in their Facebook profiles and was also related to the observers’ judgments of participants’ humour production.

Interestingly, when the observers were asked to assess participants’ levels of extroversion, they were seen to base this on the participants’ photos, ‘About’ page, and status updates. However, observers did not necessarily use all of these cues when they were asked to assess participants’ intelligence levels.

Overall, then, it would seem that humour production is related to extroversion and to some extent agreeableness. However, attempts at humour production, on Facebook at least, are in no way related to intelligence and therefore do not convert to being judged as being more attractive online. Having said that, the measure of intelligence used in this study was self-reported or assessed by external judges, rather than being measured more objectively by a standardised test of verbal intelligence, which may make a difference in future research.

References

Cacioppo, J. T., Cacioppo, S., Gonzaga, G. C. Ogburn, E. L. & VanderWeele, T. J. (2013) ‘Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues’ Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, 110 (25), 10135-10140.

Hall, J. A. (2015) ‘Sexual Selection and Humor in Courtship: A Case for Warmth and Extroversion’ Evolutionary Psychology, 13 (3), 1-10.

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