People with high moral standards 'less likely' to be funny

Researchers found that a lack of sense of humour also makes people less likeable 

Sarah Young
Thursday 17 January 2019 11:40 GMT
(Getty Images)

People who are morally virtuous are ‘less likely’ to be funny, according to new research.

Based on suspicions about their moral superiors, a group of scientists from the National University of Singapore Business School investigated the link between joke appreciation, joke making and people’s sense of their own morality.

The results suggested that people with high moral standards were less likely to make jokes or laugh at other people’s jokes, subsequently making them less likeable.

“Although highly moral people are often viewed positively for displaying admirable character traits, they may also be disliked to the extent to which they are viewed as sanctimonious, prudish, or unrelatable,” the scientists write in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Both experimental and field data indicate that such tension not only means that morality may impinge upon humour, but that this can come at the expense of likeability and popularity.

“Thus, morality can have a downside that was previously overlooked.”

During the investigation, researchers used a series of jokes and memes to test people’s reactions.

The team tested the theory that humour which relies on violating social boundaries can lead to tension in people who strongly adhere to those rules.

“Although highly moral individuals should be no less likely to engage in forms of humour that do not involve any moral violation, their avoidance of more off-colour jokes that challenge moral norms may lead them to be seen as less humorous overall,” the scientists wrote.

The research also revealed that participants with a strong moral identity did not feel the need to compensate by telling jokes that did not involve any “moral violations”.

As a result, it found that people who are perceived as highly moral and less humorous are often less liked others.

“Although having moral employees and leaders can come with many benefits, our research shows that there can be offsetting costs associated with an internalised moral identity: reduced humour and subsequent likability in the workplace,” the team concluded.

In contrast, the results did show that while people with strong moral identities are perceived as less humorous, they are also considered to be more trustworthy.

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