A new study has confirmed a strong correlation between humor and intelligence among children. The researchers found that children are better able to produce humor when they have higher levels of general knowledge and verbal reasoning.
The study was focused on 217 Turkish middle-school students with a wide range of intelligence. The results suggest that the link between humor and intelligence is much stronger in children than adults.
“Humor has been considered a sign of high intelligence throughout human history,” explained the study authors. “For example, during competitions for women to mate within ancient times, men engaged in humor to demonstrate their cleverness and adaptability.”
“In scientific research, intelligence has been found to predict humor ability partly. People who quickly and easily produce witty ideas are considered highly intelligent.”
While many previous studies had looked at the correlation between intelligence and humor in adults, there is much less relevant research that is focused on children.
For the investigation, the students were asked to create captions for 10 cartoons. Experts rated the funniness of the captions, as well as their relevance to the cartoons, for a total of 30,380 ratings.
When the researchers compared the ratings with the intelligence of the children, they found that general intelligence was highly correlated with humor.
The study authors emphasize that the cultural context plays an important role in the strength of the link between intelligence and humor. They note that both humor and intelligence are shaped by cultural norms, beliefs and values.
Prior research on humor and intelligence has mostly been carried out in Western cultures, but the new study explored the relationship in Turkish culture, which is a blend of Western and Eastern cultures.
“While humor is frequently used for entertainment by adults, children use it mostly for peer acceptance. Therefore, the nature of adult and child humor differs,” said study lead author Professor Ugur Sak of Anadolu University.
“We were particularly interested in the quality of humor made by children but evaluated by adults. Parents and teachers should be aware that if their children or students frequently make good quality humor, it is highly likely that they have extraordinary intelligence.”
The study is published in Humor – International Journal of Humor Research.