Women really are more attracted to men who make them laugh, study finds

...but 'ambivalent sexism' could be to blame, as the reverse is not true

Researchers at an American university have claimed that humour is a key factor in human “sexual selection”, with women appearing to be more attracted to men who make them laugh.

Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, found that when two strangers meet, the more times a man tries to be funny and a woman laughs, the more likely she is to be interested in dating.

The reverse was not true for women who attempted humour, according to his study “Sexual Selection and Humour in Courtship: A Case for Warmth and Extroversion,” which has been published in the Evolutionary Psychology journal.

Professor Hall said the use and interpretation of jokes between men and women could be due to “ambivalent sexism” in both genders, as well as a desire to find out more about people's personalities and gauge compatability.

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Professor Hall said that shared laughter can signal compatibility for some couples

After studying students in a blind date-style test, researchers found that the men and women who laughed at the same time were most likely to be romantically interested in each other.

“Part of what it means to be social is the ability to joke along with people,” Professor Hall said.

“Men are trying to get women to show their cards. For some men it is a conscious strategy.”

Professor Hall ran a series of experiments to examine the role of humour in courtship using students as test subjects.

In the first study, 35 men and women explored the Facebook profile pages of 100 strangers to gauge their personalities, before their responses were compared to surveys by the profile holders.

Professor Hall found that men and women posted similar amounts of “humorous content” online and that strangers perceived people sharing jokes to be more extroverted than intelligent.

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A professor at the University of Kansas conducted the research

In the second study, almost 300 students filled out a survey that found no connection between how intelligent people were and how funny they claimed to be.

The final part tested 51 pairs of single, heterosexual university students who had never met and put them in a blind date scenario.

They were given a selection of question cards to start a conversation, which was recorded by researchers.

After being observed talking alone for 10 minutes, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire assessing their “date”.

Professor Hall found that although men and women made similar numbers of what he called “attempts at humour”, female students laughed more than the men.

He suggested that the couples may have been adhering to a “culturally informed courtship” ritual.

“The script is powerful and it is enduring, and it dictates everything from asking someone out to picking up the tab,” the researcher said.

“Shared laughter might be a pathway toward developing a more long-lasting relationship.”

Professor Hall noted that laughter was not a true indicator of if someone truly finds a comment funny as “people laugh at jokes they do not fully comprehend and comprehend jokes they do not laugh at”.

But he argues that it still has a role sculpting first impressions by signalling personality traits or performing other functions, like expressing agreement or irony.

In the conclusion to the study, Professor Hall wrote that joking and laughter could also be considered as respectively dominant and submissive, where some women provide the “audience” to a man’s performance.

The “ambivalent sexism” in both the men and women studied may be to blame, he said, along with ideas of desirable “masculinity and femininity”.

Professor Hall added: “Perhaps flirting by joking around by males is particularly attractive to traditional females, and females serving as a responsive audience are most attractive to traditional males.”

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