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Is dark actually smart?

| May 12, 2020 1:00 AM

Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.

If dark humor is your thing, it could indicate a high IQ. Nature must have a bizarre sense of humor, because research also suggests that people who laugh at the dark side of life — with a morbid, macabre sense of what’s funny — are less aggressive.

Dark humor, a.k.a. black humor or gallows humor, is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as humor marked by morbid, ironic, or grotesquely comic episodes. What some people just call sick, others find hilarious.

Unlike slapstick or wordplay, for example, dark humor is tricky. According to psychological researchers it requires conceptual blending, frame-shifting. A comfort level with laughing at uncomfortable feelings.

Research published in 2017 in the journal Cognitive Processing suggested that appreciative difference may have something to do with intelligence. The study “Cognitive and emotional demands of black humor processing: The role of intelligence, aggressiveness and mood” examined the complex processing of humor in the brains of 156 adults. They found the subjects fell into one of three categories:

(1) Moderate black humor preference and moderate comprehension, correlated with average nonverbal and verbal intelligence, low mood disturbance and moderate aggressiveness;

(2) Low black humor preference and moderate comprehension, with average nonverbal and verbal intelligence, high mood disturbance and high aggressiveness; and

(3) High black humor preference and high comprehension, with high nonverbal and verbal intelligence, no mood disturbance and low aggressiveness.

Age and gender made no significant difference, although education had some impact. In general, dark-humor lovers were more likely to have higher IQs and be emotionally stable, as well as less aggressive. Those who didn’t enjoy it were more likely to be less emotionally stable and more aggressive.

The aggression correlation with humor goes at least as far back as Freud, who hypothesized that humor allows for a temporary and relatively safe release of otherwise-repressed aggressive urges. Laughing as emotional purge.

Two studies in 1983 (McCauley and Prerost) confirmed such a link between aggressive moods and humor.

Those studies suggested that people in an aggressive mood were more likely to find dark humor funny. Which gives the impression that while they may not express it physically, research indicates dark-humor lovers may still feel aggressive.

Regardless of type, a strong sense of humor in general has also been positively correlated with intelligence. Einstein was famous for his tendency to joke and laugh. Multiple studies have associated funny people and humor appreciation with emotional intelligence (Yip 2006), higher IQ scores (Feingold 1991), and empathy (Halfpenny 2020) as well as health benefits such as lower blood pressure, reduced pain, and improved immune response (and faster healing).

Laughter therapy is serious business.

So since we could all use a little immunity boost lately:

What has four legs and one arm? A Doberman in a playground.

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who likes it all. Jokes low, high, dark and punny appreciated at Sholeh@cdapress.com.