Thursday, February 18, 2010


Women take little extra time to understand jokes but they derive more pleasure from a good punchline compared to their male counterparts, according to a new study.

The study conducted at Stanford University in California found that women use more parts of the brain than men to process jokes and have less expectation that they willfind them funny.

The research, which was aimed at unravelling the mystery of how our sense of humour works, suggested that women preferred more sophisticated humour and used more complex brain functions to process it, The Sunday Times reported.

"Our findings fit the stereotype of how men and women react to humour," said lead researcher Prof Allan Reiss, director of the university`s Interdisciplinary Brain SciencesResearch Center.

"We found greater activity in the prefrontal cortex in women, indicating women are processing stimuli that involve language areas of the brain. The interpretation of that finding is that women tend to respond more to word play and narrative than slapstick."

For the study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to monitor how men and women respond to humour differently by observing their brain activity.

In one of the experiments, 10 women and 10 men were placed in an fMRI scanner and shown 70 black-and-white cartoons on a screen. They pressed buttons to indicate howamusing they found each joke.
The scanner measured the subjects` brain activity as they viewed both funny and unfunny cartoons, as well as timing how long it took them to respond to a joke.

The experiments found that women displayed more intense activity than men in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which controls language interpretation and in-depthanalytical processes.

Researchers said that women participants of the study took slightly longer to react to jokes that were funny, but enjoyed the punchlines more. They, however, said the timedifference was marginal."

The scans also indicate that women have a lower expectation that they will find jokes funny but when they do, they experience a greater degree of reward," said Reiss."

Men have the opposite response. They show more activation of nucleus accumbens (the part of the brain involved in reward and pleasure), indicating they expect to get the joke but when they don’t they get more depressed."

Reiss is now conducting similar tests on children to determine whether gender differences in humour are biological and genetic or nurtured through experience.

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