ESKIŞEHIR, Turkey — Every class has a few students who just can’t help but crack jokes at every opportunity. While many may look at “class clowns” as immature and attention-seeking, a new study suggests strong humor skills during adolescence may be a sign of high intelligence. Researchers report children with higher than average levels of general knowledge and verbal reasoning tend to excel at humor.
The same isn’t necessarily true for adults, however. Researchers didn’t find a similarly strong connection between humor and grown-up intelligence.
Humor a key sign your kid is smart
Study authors gathered together over 200 children and asked each to write captions for 10 different cartoons. After collecting all the captions, a group of seven adult “humor experts” rated both the funniness and relevancy of each caption to each cartoon. In total, the experts delivered 30,380 ratings during the study.
When researchers compared intelligence and humor performance a clear pattern emerged. General intelligence highly correlated with humor. The study states that intelligence accounted for 68 percent of the observed difference in humor ability among the kids. Notably, study authors found children with both higher general knowledge and higher verbal reasoning to be funnier than their peers.
This research didn’t find as strong a connection between humor and adult intelligence, but study authors say it’s important to consider the role of culture in all of this. While most prior studies focusing on this topic typically occur in Western countries like the United States, this study involved Turkish children. The researchers describe Turkish culture as a mixture of both Western and Eastern cultures.
Culture and comedy have a complex relationship
Culture is an important consideration because it influences both comedic and intelligence beliefs. A funny joke in one culture may fall flat in another. Similarly, what some consider a sign of cleverness in one country may come across as the opposite in a different nation.
“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,” concludes lead study author Professor Ugur Sak from Anadolu University in a media release.
“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 appears in Humor – International Journal of Humor Research.