The effect of humor styles on mate value and preferences in an online experiment
Abstract: Humor is likely to serve as signals of fitness in potential partners. Less is known about how different styles of humor affect partner attractiveness. This study aimed to test the attractiveness of the four different humor styles proposed by Martin et al. (2003) categorized according to being benign (affiliate, self-enhancing) or detrimental (aggressive, self-defeating). Participants were presented with a series of potential partners, much like on a dating site. Each partner was described by a portrait picture and a vignette, which included examples of one of the four humor styles. The participants’ task was to rate a number of items about partner preference (date, intercourse, shortand long-term relationships) and mate value (intelligence, health, social status and parenting skill). A total of 170 women and 81 men between 18-40 years of age completed the experiment. The results showed significant effects on all measurements of partner interest and mate value for women with the aggressive humor style being rated as less attractive and lower in mate value than the other humor styles. For men there was a significant effect on two measurements on mate value (social status, parenting skill), showing that the self-defeating style was rated less attractive. The results support the notion that humor is used as a fitness signal, that this is used to a substantially greater extent by women, and that women find the aggressive humor style to be particularly unattractive in potential partners.
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