Science Finally Gets Around To Settling Whether Men or Women are Funnier


Well, science has finally, unequivocally, once and for all solved the big “Who’s funnier?” battle of the sexes question. And the winner is…


But before you Chris Hitchens-sympathizing crankbots do a joyless little victory dance, read on. Men are just barely funnier than women in the actual results of this study, and researchers found that they’re much less funnier than they think they are. In fact, men are funniest to other men.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of California- San Diego, and took place in two phases. During phase one, a handful of male and female students were given blank New Yorker cartoons and instructed to write a number of possible captions for them at once. They were told to be as funny as possible. The individuals came up with 640 captions for various cartoons.

After that, 34 men and 47 women were brought in to pick the best captions via a 5 round single elimination tournament. Participants weren’t told the gender of the caption authors. Captions were scored based on how far they made it in the tournament, and the scores were tabulated and averaged for both the male and female-authored captions. The final scores ranged from 1 to 5. Male-authored captions made it an average of .11 rounds further than the female-authored ones, winning, just barely.

Other men tended to score male-authored captions much higher than their female counterparts did; the humor differential between men and women as rated by men was .16. The humor differential between men and women as rated by women was only .06. Men still had a slight edge among women, but it’s much less dramatic than the difference in regard that men have for other men’s humor versus women’s. Says one study author,

“Sad for the guys who think that by being funny they will impress the ladies, but really just impress other men who want to impress the ladies.”

No homo! Amirite! Up top, bro. No word on what would eliminate the differential, although it may be totally wiped out if women were allowed to make more menstruation jokes. Periods are a comedic nuclear bomb, and male squeamishness has rendered period humor in mixed company completely off limits. This has hurt us, as a gender.

The study also suggests that our response to men and women may be tempered by social bias. A full 90% of participants predicted that men would be funnier than women, even though a full 90% did not find men to be funnier. The University’s website reports,

[S]aid the study’s first author Laura Mickes, a postdoctoral researcher in the UC San Diego Department of Psychology and a Ph.D. graduate of the same department, “The differences we find between men’s and women’s ability to be funny are so small that they can’t account for the strength of the belief in the stereotype.”

And that’s when the study moved onto a second, more depressing stage.

Turns out, while men who participated in the study were found to be only slightly funnier than the women, participants often misattributed funnier contributions to men. When asked to guess the author of particularly funny captions, they usually attributed them to men, and women were blamed for the unfunny captions.

Men also predicted that they’d be funnier than they actually were. Says one researcher,

Male confidence, in this domain at least does seem to outstrip male competence.

The researchers did not investigate why men get so butthurt when their girlfriends are funnier than they are, nor why they end up ruining the night by pouting in the corner at parties where she makes other people laugh more than he does. But stay tuned!

Funny Finding: Men Win The Humor Test (But By A Hair) [UCSD]

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