Younger people like more ‘aggressive’ humour, study says

New research from the US suggests that there’s a real generation gap when it comes to what makes us laugh.

Assistant professor of psychology Jennifer Tehan Stanley from the University of Akron conducted the study, alongside Monika Lohani from Brandeis University and Derek M. Isaacowitz from Northeastern University. The team showed three groups of adults in different age ranges (which they called young, middle-aged, and older, although they don’t give details of the cut-off points) a series of clips from different sitcoms, including Golden Girls, Mr Bean (?), The Office, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Their results, which they’ve published in the journal Psychology and Aging, found that older people were less keen on what the researchers labelled ‘aggressive’ humour (like David Brent). Instead they preferred ‘affiliative’ humour, where characters were dealing with a situation together rather than laughing at someone else’s expense. Younger people, on the other hand, loved the meaner stuff. (Although it’s still not entirely clear who finds Mr Bean funny… or why.)

Of course, the researchers don’t know whether enjoying laughing at someone else (or not) is a feature of the particular generations they studied, or whether everyone gets more empathetic and enjoys cringing at others’ mistakes less as they get older. I guess, theoretically, that it might even be possible for some younger people to think that Golden Girls isn’t an iconic TV show. As long as we can all agree that they’re wrong.

Image via y i v a’s Flickr.

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Diane Shipley

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