A guest blog post from author Stephen Porter:
My kids giggle, groan, and roll their eyes. My wife smirks and squeezes my hand sympathetically. But though they protest, every day one of them inevitably asks “What’s the dad joke of the day?" For the record, today’s dad joke was:
Q: Why do dragons take weekends off from religious activities?
A: They only prey on weak knights.
My father told me jokes when I was young, and my teenage son and his friends sit around sharing the various dad jokes they’ve collected over their life. And I’ve noticed that the funnier he gets, the more the girls have started taking notice of him.
Numerous studies have shown that women prefer funny men to non-funny men. Requiring a sense of humor shows up twice as often on women’s dating profiles as men’s. And studies have shown that men with funny sayings and witticisms on their dating profiles get more attention from women, and not only have more first dates, but also more consecutive dates.
Now, I’m not trying to turn my son into some sort of ladies’ man or anything like that, but you have to at least wonder why humor has the effect it does on relationships.
Here are the prevailing theories:
1. Humor is a sign of intelligence.
Two years ago, my daughter often looked very confused about the jokes we were telling, but as her vocabulary and the number of books she had read grew, the subtleties in our word play became more evident. Now, she laughs at almost everything and has started offering her own variations of puns and situational humor.
But the ability to understand the jokes isn’t the only reason why humor is correlated to intelligence. Laughing has also been shown to lower stress which lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol has been shown to damage neurons in the brain associated with learning and memory. Thus people who laugh more can also learn better and retain more of that learning.
Intelligent dads lead to intelligent kids.
2. Humor reveals what kind of person we are.
There are four different types of humor: affiliative (social humor), self-enhancing (humor that makes you look good), aggressive (humor that makes others look bad), and self-deprecative (humor that makes you look bad).
Of these four, only affiliative humor that is not directed at anyone in particular like puns, wit, observational humor, paradoxes, etcetera was associated with couples staying together, and that held true through dating and marriage.
Partners with affiliative humor are stable partners.
3. Humor teaches children the ability to see through deception.
This one seems to be the most important for the times. Critical thinking is first learned in listening to a parent tell a joke like a pun. A child has to sort through the words and find the one with the double meaning. In more complex jokes, children have to weigh information and find the part that violates speech or social norms, and if those violations are seen as not being threatening to the listener, laughter ensues.
Those same skills are used to find the flaw in a promise too good to be true, or to notice that an authority figure has substituted a word with the same meaning or changed the meaning of a word altogether. All jokes are built on truth and their wordplay can teach valuable lessons. There was a reason the court jester was often seen as the king’s most valuable advisor.
Partners that can see the dangers in the world around them can keep their families safe.
In a lot of ways, families are under attack today, and it’s no coincidence that humor is as well because humor builds stronger families and more resilient, well-rounded, intelligent children. So parents, make a habit of making your kids laugh. Buy them a joke book, and let them test out some groaners on you. You might even find yourself laughing right along with them.