Clever People: Intelligence and Humor Production Ability

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Are smarter people funnier? Recent work suggests that cognitive abilities are important to humor production—the ability to generate funny ideas on the spot. Using the Cattell–Horn–Carroll model of intelligence, the present research examined both general and specific contributions of cognitive factors to humor ability. It extended past research by (a) measuring a broader range of cognitive abilities, including some that have not been assessed thus far, (b) assessing humor with a broader battery of tasks, and (c) using bifactor models to estimate both general and specific effects of intelligence on humor. A sample of 270 young adults completed measures of fluid reasoning (Gf), vocabulary knowledge (Gc), and broad retrieval ability (Gr) along with a battery of humor production tasks. All 3 specific factors correlated with humor ability, and a higher order model found a large effect of g on humor ability (β = .51 [.32, .70]). In a bifactor model, however, humor ability was predicted primarily by g and Gr but not Gf, suggesting that fluid intelligence’s correlation with humor ability found in past studies is carried by g. These findings illustrate both general and specific effects of intelligence on humor, and they expand the growing literature on the important role of intelligence in creative thought.

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