Boy: Was that an earthquake…or did you just rock my world?
Girl: giggled.
Boy: Introduced himself and got the number.
(Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV2KC50rui0 )

I just watched a YouTube video of a group of boys trying to get the numbers from random girls on the campus. The best part of it is that they use funny pickup lines as a conversation starter. Some of them got the numbers, but most of the times girls giggled and just walked away (Read point II). The question here is do funny lines to girls actually work? It seems yes to some extent. In this article, I will back up my YES with findings from evolutionary psychology science in five points.

Let’s begin with the deep philosophical question i.e. what is a humor? We do not have general agreement over defining humor. Humor could be seen as a personality trait, a behavior, a temperament or an attitude (Feingold & Mazzella, 1991; Martin, 2003). But most people have some intuitive sense over what humor is. Yet, humor is affected by various situational factors. Imagine if the recipient does not get the joke, or if he/she undergoes various emotional experiences or if he/she does not find the joke funny, there is no funny business between the person who makes a joke and the person who receives it. On the other hand, humor is objective and people generally agreed over what something is funny. Had it not been, there would be no stand-up comedians.

   1. Humor is universal.

The smile and laughter develops about the same time in baby in every culture in the world (Bergen 1998). Babies who are born smile reflexively and start laughing vocally at around 2 to 4 months of age even before they acquire language (Ekman, 1993). Even babies who are bon blind or deaf smile and laugh, and they do not need to see or hear the others around them (Freedman, 1964). Our closest relatives primates also show facial expressions that are similar to human laughter and smiles (Preuschoft & Van –Hooff, 1997). The silent bared teeth display is homologous to human smile and appears as an appeasement sign in chimpanzees. The other type, relaxed open mouth display is homologous to human laughter and appears as a sign of enjoyment in chimpanzees (Preuschoft & Van-Hooff, 1997). Refer to the picture based on a series of descriptions in (Van-Hooff, 1971) by Gavin Roberts in (Cartwright, 2008).

   2. Women look for humorous men.

In humans and most mammals, women are choosier sex. That’s why females, biologically speaking, do not give away her numbers to all potential male pursuers, like those in the video I just watched. Evolutionarily speaking, women bear heavier costs with internal fertilization, higher parental investment shorter reproductive lifespans and number of potential offspring in life (Buss, 2003). Women are particularly sensitive to cues to the men with high-quality value. Humorous quality along with other human capacities such as language, art, music, sports, and dances, are evolved and selected through mutual mate choice to advertise quality.

A meta analysis conducted on 4,000 subjects reported that women found humor to be the very important trait in men (Feingold, 1992). Women also ranked humor as first in the quality of potential mate while men only placed it third (Lippa, 2007). Provine (2000) also analyzed 3,745 personal ads published on same day in eight different newspaper and found that women emphasize humorous qualities in mates, about 62% more than men did.

   3. Men desire women to appreciate their jokes.

A study done by Wilbur and Campbell (2011) asked college students to imagine ways to get to know a potential romantic partner and rate a number of statements for using different humorous strategies. Men reported to use humor production. For example, they significantly rated higher on “I would make a lot of jokes,” or “I would try to make him/ her laugh” than women. Females preferred humor appreciation as a mating strategy. Women prefer statements such as “I would tell him/ her that he/she is funny,” and “I would laugh at his/her jokes.”

Another study by Bressler, Martin and Balshine (2006) studied humor production and appreciation in men and women. There were 2 descriptions for potential mate. The first individual produced humor that the participant enjoyed but were not appreciative of the participant’s humor. The second individual was receptive of the participant’s own humor but the participant did not appreciate the individual’s humor. When asked to rate which individual the participants preferred in various relationship types, males rated higher on second individual type as a preference while women emphasized their preference on first individual type (humor producer) in all kinds of relationships such as dating, one-night stand, short-and long term relationships, and friendship.

   4. Humorous men actually get more women.

Simpson and Gangestad (1991) reported that participants who scored higher on humor production task had higher mating success; they started having sex earlier, had a higher number of sexual partners and had more sex in general. But no sex differences were found in their study. One field study (Gu’eguen, 2010) used 3 males as confederates in 60 different outdoor occasions. One of the three men started telling jokes, and the other two laughed. Then the two of the three left and the person (who told the joke or who appreciated/laughed at the joke) approached the woman and asked for her phone number. Women were three times more likely to give their phone numbers to the man who told jokes than the man who only laughed at the joke. In fact, the amount of laughter produced by women in the conversation predicted both the female’s and male’s interests in dating each other. (Grammer and Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1990).

   5. Humor appreciation implies romance to both parties, especially to the man. 

Humors may indicate attraction to the men. Smiling increased the attractiveness of women (Penton-Voak and Chang, 2008). Men who were smiled at were more than five times more likely to approach the woman and start a conversation with her (Gue’guen, 2008). Even if the women were not approached, the men in the study looked at the women for an average of 5 seconds longer than men whom the female confederates did not smiled at.

Women seek and prefer men with humors. Men also know that humors can attract potential mates. This probably is the reason why pickup lines towards women are usually cheesy, funny and creative, signaling that he is the man “you” might be looking for. You know when something funny is going on, don’t you. Evolutionary psychology does not condone anything based on the findings. But if you would like to hear my personal dating or relationship advice, I would suggest that women might smile and laugh at the guy’s jokes if you like him. And for the men, make the women laugh! It might make you more attractive. If not, tickle them. Just kidding. Don’t do it. It was just a joke. And I am just being funny.

Acknowledgment: Many of my thoughts in the article were derived and elaborated in Greengross (2014) article called Male Production of Humor Produced by Sexually Selected Psychological Adaptations. Please refer to the book Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Sexual Psychology and Behavior, edited by Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford and Todd K. Shackelford. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

References

Bergen, D. (1998). Development of the sense of humor. In W.Ruch (ed.). The sense of humor: Explorations of a personality characteristic (pp. 329-358). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Bressler, E., & Balshine, S. (2006). The influence of humor on desirability. Evolution and Human Behavior27(1), 29-39.

Buss, D. M. (2003). The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating (2nd ed). New York: Basic Books.

Cartwright, J. (2008). Evolution and Human Behavior (2nd ed). Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT press.

Ekman, P. (1993). Facial expression and emotion. American Psychologist, 48(4), 384.

Feignold, A. (1992). Gender differences in mate selection preferences: A test of the parental investment model. Psychological Bulletin112(1), 125-139.

Feingold, A. & Mazzella, R. (1991). Psychometric intelligence and verbal humor ability. Personality & Individual Differences, 12(5), 427-435.

Freedman, D. G. (1964). Smiling in blind infants and the issue of innate vs. acquired. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 5(3-4), 171-184.

Grammer, K., & Eibl0Eibesfeldt, I. (1990). The ritualization of laughter. In W. Koch   (Ed.), Naturlichkeit der Sprache undder Kultur: Acta Colloquii (pp. 192-214). Bochum: Brockmeyer.

Gue’guen, N. (2008). The effect of a woman’s smile on men’s courtship behavior. Social Behavior and Personality, 36(9), 1233-1236.

Gue’guen, N. (2010). Men’s sense of humor and women’s responses to courtship solicitations: An experimental field study. Psychological Reports, 107(1), 145-156.

Lippa, R. A. (2007). The preferred traits of mates in a cross-national study of heterosexual and homosexual men and women: An examination of biological and cultural influences. Archives of Sexual Behavior36(2), 193-208.

Martin, R. A. (2003). Sense of humor. IN S. J. Lopez & C.R. Snyder (Eds), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures (pp. 313-326). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Penton-Voak, I. S., & Chang, H. Y. (2008). Attractiveness judgements of individuals vary across emotional expression and movement conditions. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 6(2), 89-100.

Preuschoft, S., & Van-Hooff, J. A. (1997). The social function of smile and laughter: Variations across primate species and societies. IN U. Segerstrale & P. Monlar (Eds), Nonverbal communication: Where nature meets culture (pp. 171-190),   Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Provine, R. (2000) Laughter: A scientific investigation. New York: Viking.

Simpson, J. A., & Gangestad, S. W. (1991). Individual differences in sociosexuality: Evidence for convergent and discriminant validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology60(6), 870-883.

Van-Hooff, J. A. R. A. M. (1971). Aspects of the Social Behavior and Communication in Human and Higher Primates. Rotterdam, Netharland: Bronderoffset.

Wilbur, C. J., & Campbell, L. (2011). Humor in romantic contexts: Do men participate and women evaluate? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin37(7), 918-929.

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