Understatement of the Week: Nicholas Christenfeld

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Oct. 23, 2011 at 10:15 AM
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A study released this week by the University of California, San Diego's Division of Social Sciences found men are funnier than women. But not by much.

The author of the study, Laura Mickes, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology, said, "The differences we find between men's and women's ability to be funny are so small that they can't account for the strength of the belief in the stereotype."

The difference was really "just at the edge of detectability," said Nicholas Christenfeld, UC San Diego professor of psychology and co-author of the study.

The study was conducted with two tests.

In the first, an equal number of men and women wrote captions for cartoon drawings, and judges of both genders rated the results.

In the second experiment, researchers tried to find out if people had preconceived notions that men were funnier than women by having readers guess which gender wrote which captions.

Here's a knee-slapper: Men were more likely than women to be misjudged the wittier of the two genders.

But the big question remains: Which came first, the chicken or the egg or -- and this is critical here -- the joke about the chicken and the egg?

That is to say: Why is it that men are funnier?

One theory holds that men are funnier or try to be funnier, because it is a way of attracting a female.

Of course, if that were true, it stands to reason that male standup sought after dates on the planet.

So why are they always joking about how they can't get a date?

Well, there might be an answer to that.

"Sad for the guys," Christenfeld said, "who think that by being funny they will impress the ladies, but really just impress other men who want to impress the ladies."

Ouch.

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