Exploring the relationship between attractiveness and a good sense of humour

Mary Louise Cowan, Anthony C. Little

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Much research has shown the importance of physical attractiveness and a good sense of humour when choosing a mate. Evidence has shown that aspects of our appearance, such as symmetry or sex hormone markers, can be a sign of good health and fertility to potential mates, therefore it is highly adaptive to recognise these cues. It is however less clear what a good sense of humour communicates to others and why it is so important and attractive in potential partners. Some researchers have suggested that humour signals =good genes', similar to the function of physical attractiveness, thus demonstrating how funny you are may increase how attractive others find you. However, other researchers suggest that we use humour to =indicate interest' in individuals we are attracted to, meaning that physical attractiveness may enhance perceptions of funniness. In this chapter, we present evidence to suggest that physical attractiveness enhances the perceptions of funniness in men, but not in women, adding further evidence to the literature showing the sex differences which exist in humour appreciation and production. An additional consideration, however, is that the humour used by men and women may not be perceived the same way and that the humour style used may impact on the attractiveness of the individual using it. Certain humour styles may be considered less socially desirable than others.For example, aggressive humour is less socially desirable than affiliative humour. Despite this, evidence has shown that whilst affiliative humour is preferred for long-term relationships, aggressive humour is attractive for short-term relationships. This finding highlights humour as a means to communicate other important qualities in a potential mate, such as dominance, cooperativeness, or proceptivity. The relative attractiveness of these qualities to men and women may help us to understand how the attractiveness of humour varies according to context, style, and the sex of the user.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of Interpersonal Perception and Relationships
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781634631457
ISBN (Print)9781634631310
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Publication series

NamePsychology of Emotions, Motivations and Actions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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