Do women seek humorousness in men because it signals intelligence? A cross-cultural test

Glenn E. Weisfeld 1 , Nicole T. Nowak 1 , Todd Lucas 1 , Carol C. Weisfeld 1 , E. Olcay Imamoğlu 1 , Marina Butovskaya 1 , Jiliang Shen 1 , and Michele R. Parkhill 1
  • 1 Wayne State University
  • 2 University of Detroit Mercy
  • 3 Middle East Technical University, Ankara
  • 4 Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
  • 5 Beijing Normal University
  • 6 Oakland University, Detroit


Miller has suggested that people seek humorousness in a mate because humor connotes intelligence, which would be valuable in a spouse. Since males tend to be the competing sex, men have been more strongly selected to be humorous. To test this notion, we explored the role of humor in marriage cross-culturally, in the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Turkey, and Russia. In the first four societies, husbands were perceived to make wives laugh more than the reverse, but wives were funnier in Russia. Spousal humorousness was associated with marital satisfaction in all cultures, especially the wife's satisfaction. Spousal humorousness was less consistently related to spousal intelligence than to some alternative possibilities: spousal kindness, dependability, and understanding. Furthermore, the relationship between these four variables and marital satisfaction was mediated by spousal humorousness. Humor is gratifying in other social contexts as well. Humorists may gain social credit by providing amusement, and may also use humor to gauge another's mood and to engender liking, perhaps especially in courtship and marriage. Spouses may also take humorousness as a sign of motivation to be amusing, kind, understanding, dependable — as a sign of commitment.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.

Log in with your institution

Journal + Issues