60-Second Mind

Are Men Funnier Than Women?

A new study finds that the humor gap between the sexes is more stereotype than reality. Christie Nicholson reports

In a 2007 Vanity Fair article Christopher Hitchens asked: Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women?

Well a recent study finds that men might have a tiny edge over women in producing humor but the gap is too small to account for the stereotype.


Scientists had 16 male and 16 female subjects write funny captions for 20 New Yorker magazine cartoons in 45 minutes. Then the captions were rated by a different group of 34 male and 47 female subjects.


Men’s captions rated higher on average than women’s captions. But only by a mere 0.11 points out of perfect score of 5.0. The study is published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

The researchers also found that unfunny captions were more often wrongly attributed to women and funny ones misattributed to men.


Given the tiny edge men held, why does the stereotype have a strong hold?   Maybe men just make more attempts at humor. For example, fewer women win the New Yorker caption contests, but fewer enter. When women do enter, however, they tend to win with fewer attempts compared to men.


Which may give women the last laugh.


—Christie Nicholson


[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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