There is an old adage that laughter is the best medicine. Granted, the evidence shows it’s a romantic tonic. And it is also a professional stimulus.
When recruiter Robert Half examined the effect of humor on career success, he found a strong correlation. More than nine in ten executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement. Some 84% considered the effect to be more than cosmetic – telling pollsters that being able to joke helps professionals do a better job.
Although a separate to study confirmed the unsurprisingly news that we laugh more on weekends than on weekdays, humor is crucial to managing, leading and getting along at work. Fairness in humor is serious business.
Still, there might be a catch. Strong sexual incentives mean her development of her sense of humor unfolds asymmetrically between the sexes. Straight women show a strong preference for men who are good at what psychologists call “humor production‘- and what everyone calls telling jokes.
Women aren’t the only ones who find an attractive sense of humor in a partner. Research shows that straight men also find it exciting in women. But there is a crucial difference.
Men prefer women who are good at what psychologists call “humor receptiveness” – what everyone describes as “she laughs at my jokes”.
Studies of online dating profiles reveal this dichotomy: men tend to advertise their own sense of humor; women advertise for Men with sense of humor. Evolutionary biology and psychology show that sexual preferences are a powerful catalyst for evolution. The internal urge to reproduce means that we tend towards traits that benefit us in mate selection. Psychologists argue that women seek a sharp mind as a code for an intelligent man.
This is clearly shown in humor arbitrage. Compared to men, women have produce less humor and more appreciation of that of others.
None of this suggests that either gender has an inherent skill advantage over telling jokes, just that one gender does a little less than the other. That women produce less humor is almost certainly behind the stereotype – held by both sexes – that they are less funny than men.
Do you remember the Robert Half investigation? If humor is a motto in professional life, it is likely to put women at a disadvantage in the workplace – where joking is energizing professionally.
Beyond the stereotypes, the reality is quite different. There are dozens of successful actresses, who gather crowds every night all over the world. The comedy is distributed among all sexes and all sexualities.
Still, the delivery of it is likely spotty. Men produce more humor; less women. Evolutionary impulses have – as always – a lot to answer. “Inequality of humor” might sound like a bit of a joke. But it’s not a matter of laughing.