1. Function: According to the sexual selection perspective, humor primarily serves a showing-off function; according to the interest indicator model, humor is used to communicate relationship interest. Thus, whereas sexual selection suggests that humor causes attraction to occur, interest indication predicts that humor initiation and perceptions of humor are driven by attraction. Consistent with the interest indicator model, the same exact joke can be perceived as highly funny or unamusing depending on who tells the joke.
2. Differentiation from general conversation: Because a good-genes model emphasizes the conveying of intelligence, it does not necessarily differentiate between humor and general, intelligent conversation (i.e., both should be able to highlight cognitive skills). In contrast, the interest indicator model points to the specific function of humor to communicate interest. That is, although saying something creative or intelligent might be a way of showing off to a potential mate, saying something humorous should specifically convey relationship interest.
3. Direction of discourse: Research adopting a sexual selection perspective has emphasized the importance of men initiating humor and women responding (e.g., Bressler et al., 2006). In contrast, an interest indicator model emphasizes that any individual who is interested in a relationship should be more likely to initiate and respond positively to humor.
4. Scope: Whereas sexual selection theory states that humor evolved in the courtship domain and thus emphasizes humor’s function in mate choice, the interest indicator model applies equally to humor’s function across all social domains. That is, just as people use and desire humor not only in courtship, but across all types of social relationships and across the different stages of those relationships, the interest indicator account provides an underlying framework for how humor functions across diverse social relationships.