Intelligence and Sense of Humor

Every now and then I think about the relationship between a person’s intelligence and their sense of humor. Research has shown consistently that intelligence and sense of humor are strongly correlated. In simple terms, a person who exhibits a sense of humor is likely to be intelligent, and a person who is intelligent is likely to exhibit a sense of humor.


Sadly, the opposite is also true. A person who has a poor sense of humor is likely to have lower intelligence, and a person who is not very bright will likely not have a good sense of humor.


A typical, relatively recent research article is “Humor Ability Reveals Intelligence, Predicts Mating Success, and is Higher in Males” by researchers G. Grengross and G. Miller.

You may ask yourself what do the terms “intelligence” and “sense of humor” mean exactly. Research dating back to the early 1960s has consistently shown a high correlation between multiple forms of intelligence, measured in many different ways, and multiple definitions of sense of humor, measured in different ways.

Of course, this is all just statistics, and correlation does not mean causation. And any particular person could have no sense of humor yet still be intelligent, and vice versa. But there is a strong, clear relationship between intelligence and a sense of humor.

The reason I bring this topic up is that it seems as though fewer people I interact with have a good sense of humor. To be sure, I work with some very bright colleagues, and for the most part they do have a good sense of humor. But, maybe 10 to 15 years ago, the vast majority of my colleagues (say, 95%) fell into the intelligent + good sense of humor category, but now I’d say only about 50% of the people I interact with fall into the good category.

What this means, I don’t know. I suspect that perhaps the phenomenon that people are almost constantly connected via the Internet, mobile devices, and social media is somehow adding stress to many people’s lives, which in turn is damping down some individuals’ senses of humor.

And, some people just aren’t all that intelligent.

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