A new study has concluded that there is a correlation between appreciating dark humour and having high intelligence, as well as being less moody.
The study in the journal ‘Cognitive Processing’ carried out tests to determine whether intelligence plays a vital role in the act of being able to appreciate black humour, which is mainly made up of jokes that make light of death, illness, and vulnerable people. Research that has been carried out prior to this has meant that psychologists have claimed that a certain amount of mental agility is required to understand a range of jokes. This is due to the fact that it involves the brain comprehending a blending of different contexts and ideas that wouldn’t normally go together.
Led by Ulrike Willinger from the Medical University of Vienna, a total of 14 researchers gathered 156 participants, with an average age of 33, and an equal amount of men and women. Each participant was asked to rate their understanding and enjoyment of a total of 12 black humour cartoons which were taken from ‘The Black Book’ by Uli Stein. The cartoons involved sketches such as a confused man holding a public telephone, as the voice coming from the phone said: “Here is the answering machine of the self-help association for Alzheimer patients. If you still remember your topic, please speak after the tone.”
Together with rating the cartoons, each participant also had to complete basic verbal and non-verbal IQ tests, as well as answering a number of questions pertaining to their mood, aggressive tendencies and educational background.
After all of the information had been gathered, the researchers were able to identify three distinct groups of participants, based on their understanding and appreciation for the cartoons. Contrary to some previous beliefs, age and gender of the participants did not play a relevant factor in the dividing of the groups.
The group that displayed the highest sick humour appreciation and understanding also scored the highest on verbal and non-verbal IQ, as well as being more educated, and all scored lower for having personality traits of aggression and bad moods. These results can be linked with prior research which also found that a sense of humour correlates with IQ. However, this new study demonstrates that the previous belief that those who like black humour tend to be grumpy is untrue.
The second group showed only moderate comprehension and the lowest sick joke enjoyment, and also had average intelligence scores. This group of participants also showed the most negative mood and the highest aggression. Whilst the final group showed only moderate sick humour comprehension, had average intelligence scores, and were generally positive people with moderate aggression scores.
Willinger and her team of researchers concluded that their findings suggested that the processing of black humour is in fact a “complex information-processing task”, and remains consistent with previous results showing that having a low mood affects the amount of appreciation shown towards humour. This means that the full outcome of this study shows that a certain amount of intelligence, combined with a general good mood, positive attitude, and an inner calmness are all required in order to appreciate the “playful fiction” of black humour.
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