Humor in Romantic Contexts: Do Men Participate and Women Evaluate?
Cristopher J Wilbur and Lorne Campbell; 2011
Several lines of research illustrate that humor plays a pivotal role in relationship initiation. The current article applies sexual selection theory to argue that humor production is a fitness indicator, allowing men to transmit information tacitly about their underlying qualities. And whereas prior research has emphasized women’s appreciation of humor as a signal of interest, the focus here is on how women evaluate prospective suitors’ humorous offerings. Two studies, including an ecologically valid study of online dating advertisements, provided evidence for men’s production and women’s evaluation of humor in romantic contexts. A third study revealed that women’s evaluations of potential mates’ humor are predictive of their romantic interest. Moreover, this article shows that preferences for and perceptions of humor are associated with preferences for and perceptions of intelligence and warmth, consistent with the argument that one function of humor is as a fitness indicator that provides information about underlying mate quality.
"Humor serves multiple purposes in human affairs, and our focus here is on the role of humor as a fitness indicator. As such, we argue that humor is not a valued trait in its own right; rather, it is valued in romantic partners to the extent that it honestly signals the presence of fundamentally important traits, such as intelligence and warmth."