Feedback matters for getting the joke

From Washington, D.C., at the 108th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association

Jokes can’t be measured with a yardstick. That opens judgments of humor to social influence, say David J. Wimer of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and Bernard C. Beins of Ithaca College in New York.

The two presented jokes to students, telling some that others found the jokes horribly unfunny, not funny, very funny, or hysterically funny. Another group received no prompts.

Students who were led to believe that others found the jokes either very funny or not funny agreed with those fictional assessments. Students with no additional information and those told that others found the jokes hysterically funny or horribly unfunny, rated all the jokes as moderately funny.

“Participants were quite capable of ignoring information that was clearly discrepant with reality,” the researchers say, but students given feedback closer to the majority judgments about the jokes concurred with them.