A cross-referential study that analyzed data from 28 studies on the relative humour of roughly 5,000 people found that there’s some truth behind the common stereotype that men are generally funnier than women.
The study was completed by researchers at Aberystwyth University and the University of North Carolina and led by Dr. Gil Greengross, an evolutionary psychologist and humour researcher.
“There is a prevalent stereotype that men are funnier than women. This stereotype is shared by both men and women—but of course, just because it exists does not mean it is true,” wrote Greengross in Psychology Today.
According to Greengross, the researchers “systematically reviewed all available studies that looked at sex differences in humor ability, and using the statistical tool called meta-analysis, we calculated the difference.”
Overall, researchers found that 63 percent of men were funnier than the average woman, and Greengross attributes this difference to evolution and differences in mating strategies.
Greengross explains that most women use men’s humour producing ability as a means of gauging their intelligence. Thus, it was in many ways necessary for men to compete over who could be wittier, who could get more laughs.
He also says that men prefer women who appreciate their humour but may not see a lack of humour producing ability as a barrier for mating.
“Women tend to look for various signal indicators of mate quality, and a great sense of humor is one of them,” writes Greengross. “Humor is strongly correlated with intelligence, which explains why women value men with a great sense of humor, as intelligence was crucial for survival throughout our evolutionary history when we mostly lived in hunter-gatherer groups.”
Continuing, Greengross explains that “Men, on the other hand, prefer women who laugh at their humor,” and that men “generally do not place a high value on women’s humor production ability.”
In an interview with BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat on Tuesday, Greengross said the goal of his research is not to dissuade women from pursuing careers in comedy, saying there are plenty of female comedians who are funny.
He says that the study’s findings are not indicative of an individual comedian’s innate humour producing ability, it is merely an average between the genders.
The study lends credence to the late Christopher Hitchen’s infamous essay for Vanity Fair that posited the theory that men are generally funnier than women, but the study isn’t nearly as absolutist as the title of his piece, “Why Women Aren’t Funny”.