Liking dark humour is a sign of higher intelligence, research finds.
Surprisingly, though, people who like dark humour feel the least aggressive towards others.
In other words, it is not aggressive people who like sick jokes.
People who like dark humour tend to better educated and with higher verbal and nonverbal intelligence.
The study also found that people who prefer more twisted jokes are also likely to be higher in emotional stability,
Dark humour, the study’s authors write, is
“…a kind of humour that treats sinister subjects like death, disease, deformity, handicap or warfare with bitter amusement and presents such tragic, distressing or morbid topics in humorous terms.
Black humour, often called grotesque, morbid, gallows or sick humour, is used to express the absurdity, insensitivity, paradox and cruelty of the modern world.
Characters or situations are usually exaggerated far beyond the limits of normal satire or irony, potentially requiring increased cognitive efforts to get the joke.”
For the study, people were asked to rate cartoons by a German humorist called Uli Stein.
For example, one cartoon has a confused man holding a telephone with the voice on the other end of the line saying:
“Here is the answering machine of the self-help association for Alzheimer patients.
If you still remember your topic, please speak after the tone.”
The study’s results revealed that people with higher intelligence were more likely to appreciate jokes like this.
Dark humour, it seems, is more difficult to enjoy without higher intelligence.
“These results support the hypothesis that humour processing involves cognitive as well as affective components and suggest that these variables influence the execution of frame-shifting and conceptual blending in the course of humour processing.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Cognitive Processing (Willinger et al., 2017).