Humor and Hormones

Humour appears to develop from aggression caused by male hormones, according to a study published in this week’s Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal…. Makes total sense to me. And if you think I’m kidding, you can stuff it.This is the finding of a newly published study by Sam Shuster, emeritus professor of dermatology from the Department of Dermatology, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, in the U.K.This study involved measuring responses of subjects categorized by age and sex (and other variables) and showed that individuals with higher levels of testosterone (adult men, as opposed to women or children) had a consistent humorous response to seeing a man drive by on a unicycle than other individuals with less testosterone.This lead the author to postulate that testosterone is the primary mediating physiological system for humor.

The response to the unexpected and novel stimulus of seeing a unicyclist was surprisingly consistent even to the words and gestures used, and these varied with age, sex, and stage of sexual development. In males the response moved from curiosity in childhood, to physical and verbal aggression in older boys; this became more verbal as the boys matured into men and evolved into the concealed aggression of a repetitive humorous verbal put-down, which was lost with age. In contrast, the female response was praise and concern for safety. These findings suggest that humour develops from aggression in response to male hormones.

The most remarkable thing about this study, done entirely with the researcher’s tongue planted firmly in his teeth (see “Methods” section of the original paper) has been taken seriously by several science news outlets and duly reported by them.The original paper, for your amusement, should you have sufficient testosterone to find anything funny, is here.

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