If a man walks into a bar….who laughs? Liberals or conservatives? Dan Ariely, a psychologist at Duke University, and Elisabeth Malin, a student at Mount Holyoke College, looked into just that question in a recent Boston study. The two came up with a list of 22 jokes – conventional, quirky, corny, clever, etc. – and tracked the reactions of about 300 people who were asked to rate the jokes on a scale of 1 (not funny at all) to 9 (hilarious).
Many people, researchers included, assumed that liberals, who have a reputation for being open-minded and flexible, would find more of the jokes humorous. The joke was on them, because as it turned out, conservatives enjoyed humor more across all categories. Researchers guess that traditional jokes, like the following, which has a clear punch line and reinforces stereotypes, would be a hit with the right—and they were right:
Jake is about to chip onto the green at his local golf course when a long funeral procession passes by. He stops in midswing, doffs his cap, closes his eyes and bows in prayer. His playing companion is deeply impressed. "That's the most thoughtful and touching thing I've ever seen," he says. Jake replies, "Yeah, well, we were married 35 years.
But, contrary to prior opinion, absurdist humor, like SNL favorite Jack Handey's "Deep Thoughts," was appreciated by more conservatives than liberals. For example:
If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong, though. It's Hambone.
According to the liberal = open-minded, conservative = conformist equation, conservatives should go for the first joke, which is traditionally structured, incongruity-resolution humor. Liberals should roll on the floor laughing for the second, which is more free form and ambiguous. But across the board, conservatives are the group comedians would want in their audience, not liberals. Says Ariely, "I was surprised. Conservatives are supposed to be more rigid and less sophisticated, but they liked even the more complex humor." Why was the hypothesis wrong?
One explanation is that conservatives may be less open to new experiences, but their rigidity in politics does not necessarily correlate to other personality traits, like their funny bone.
Another is the argument that conservatives are generally happier than liberals. Conservatives rationalize social inequalities, accept the world as it is, and are happy to live in it, while liberals are not satisfied with actual society and feel they cannot be happy until something changes. Therein lies the answer to Keith Olbermann but then, why are you so angry, Bill O'Reilly?
Finally, it could all come down to conscious or subconscious biases. In a recent New York Times article John Tierney suggests that the stereotype of conservatives being stiff and humorless is an inaccurate one created by social scientists who live in a world made up almost exclusively of liberals. Social scientists attempt to be objective, but they are coming from a faculty lounge where Democrats outnumber Republicans, on average, at least seven to one. The talk around the water cooler could lead to biases that are reflected in the portrait of conservatives portrayed by social scientists.
With the conservative party rebuilding after the recent election, perhaps party members can change their image by infusing their stump speeches with some absurdist humor. Hey, did you hear the one about the VP that shot a guy?
It may be best to stick to Jack Handey.
Now the jokes on all of us...for four years anyway….
It's good to know that someone out there has this much free time that they can spend how many thousands of dollars
to find that conservitives are more likely to lagh than liberals. A shame they didn't look into catching the greedy SOB's that screwed up our economy.
Yep. Obama in the White House now! Just watch as everything goes to HELL!!
Ha ha ha ha! I love absurdist humor! And that was a good one!
They say ignorance is bliss. I for one cannot see how conservatives can help but laugh.
Goes to Hell? Two wars and an economic meltdown the like of which has never been seen isn't Hell? What is it?
Time flies like the wind,
Fruit flies like bananas.
fermilab-- go into the "general ppx discussion" forum (click on "community" under your username, upper left) and give me tips on where to go in Austin! I solicit suggestions in the thread titled "Yeehaaaw".
Did anyone laugh at the second joke seriously? I've always considered myself a liberal of sorts. I didn't get the second joke at all, and I like jokes.
You'll have to forgive me as I am but an ignorant Canadian. Is everyone in the US considered either just a Democrat or a Republican? Is their no middle ground anywhere? I have worked with many Americans who I find intelligent and fair but I have been bombarded with election coverage from the US and I've never seen such polarization in my whole life. I don't see why you can't support gay marriage and be against higher taxes at the same time, Don't get me wrong I don't like the Canadian system any better (thats another rant) but I am confused about how everyone is lumped into two simple groups.
I agree with the article about the subconcious bias, even though Liberals always claim to be so open minded they are quick to attack any line of logic that comes from the right side of the political spectrum with a rabid ferocity and without consideration. Conservatives claim to support minimal government interference, unless of course your behavior deviated from accepted norms and then they can't wait to poke their nose in your business. So my question is how funny are the moderates? My guess is not very because we are drowning in our own apathy from watching the extremists on either side of us smirk with arrogance about the ignorance of the other position while simultaneously following blindly the rigid code set forth in their own political blueprint.
I agree with our Canadian friend.
How is it that everyone in the US can be put into two sharply defined groups? They cannot.
And the researchers show their apparent bias in the fact that they believed republicans were rigid and Democrats open minded.
As a center Republican with Libertarian leanings I find the "study" to be crap. At best.
Just because I believe the government should be limited to regulating things (like OCEA and the EPA) ands should not be in charge of things (like NASA or health care), does not mean I dislike Louis Black.
The study is fundamentally flawed because it attributes humor levels to differing beliefs of the role of government and its role in society.
And buys into stereotypes.
Of course it comes via the New York Times... and they are objective.
For you Democrats, that last line was a joke……:)
Ok, maybe its the content of the jokes.. i dunno, but I didn't find either of them really funny. The first came off better than the second and I'm liberal, so how does that factor in? Golf, I have no interst in, so the whol moment of the joke sounded boring, maybe that's part of it, and the other joke was obviously not Flippy liking dolphins because his name sounds like something "fishy", but he prolly had some flack as a child about it, so of course he wouldn't like dolphins?!?! Maybe the lack of enthusiasm might be because it makes fun of people, and this perpetual cycle of making fun of people allows us to make it ok to do so in social settings. Not everyone is cool with being made fun of in one way or another (pushing buttons you know?). It can be embarrasing, esp as a child. Kind of like being called "gay", or saying something is "gay." Which can make it sounds negative or stupid. Perhaps jokes make things more negative than laughable sometimes. There are plenty of racial jokes, dead baby jokes.. you get the idea. I think the choice of the joke has a lot to do with it.
The reason the two-party system works is that it forces all the divergent factions in either party to coalesce behind a candidate who is either a compromise (McCain) or such a dazzling unknown that he mesmerizes everybody into unity (Obama.) Even then a nation can become so polarized that a single election or post-election series of calamities and setbacks could shatter any pretense of national unity.
There are so many factors at play in the USA at present that I don't believe that any beyond a tiny minority of either party would ever be moved to violence. If someone on the Democrat side becomes warlike it will be over gay rights or the environment (probably not race.) If anybody on the Republican side becomes violently stupid it will be over gun control, abortion, or gay rights, not race.
Which factors come out as the deal breakers at the end of the day? I have no clue, which is why it is good to have a sense of humor about things.
Ron paul was the only running man I found to be morally sound and actually cared..
all other candidates sounded like assembly-line speakerboxes,
nothing new whatsoever
I don't see how people can get excited about the same thing over and over again..
Something like going to the store and seeing peanut butter in a container in the shape of a dog, admit, you would probably buy it..
Upon getting hom you would make a sandwich with this new peanut butter...only to realize it's the same damn sandwich you have always had....
What America needs is some damn jelly!
I hope that conservatives never change who they are based on what some believe is popular or change the way speak, think, or do, to win an election. I am proud of who I am, what I believe, and why. And many of the conservatives I know think the same. To me, that is sellout. And for the argument, I find many conservatives just know how to laugh at life, always keeping the positive in mind, and never losing their faith in the good of the people.
Conservatives have a natural tendency to not take themselves too seriously, as they are more likely to be guided by their faith in god and not necessarily driven by their own gratification.
Liberals, on the other hand, believe they have all the answers and as such take themselves and their beliefs far too seriously.
Contrarily, the funniest people I know are liberals. They take themselves far too seriously far too much of the time and the end result is someone so out of touch with reality that they speak nothing but nonsense. I.E. Her name sounds like "Machine Got ROFL Show..." Hilarious!