I’ll never forget my Granddad’s last words to me just before he died. “Are you still holding the ladder?”
If you laughed at that joke, then first of all, I’ll save you a seat in hell. But secondly, you may have a higher-than-average IQ.
According to a study published in the Journal of Cognitive Processing, understanding and appreciating dark humor may signify a higher level of intelligence. So next time you laugh when you see a person tripping on a curb, you can put it down to your awesome intellect.
The study also found that those with the highest preference and for dark humor also had the highest verbal and nonverbal intelligence, as well as greater levels of emotional stability.
The type of humor used in the study was described as “a kind of humor that treats sinister subjects like death, disease, deformity, handicap or warfare with bitter amusement,” and states that it “is used to express the absurdity, insensitivity, paradox and cruelty of the modern world.”
The participants in the study were asked to read and rank various jokes and were then asked questions about them. These questions related to how hard it was to understand the joke, how surprised they were by the joke’s content, whether the joke was novel to them and how interesting they found the joke. Those who enjoyed the darker jokes tended to be more highly educated.
The researchers reasoned that dark humor requires more brainpower to process how the jokes work compared to more standard gags. In particular, the researchers pointed out a construct of dark humor which they named “frame blending.”
This is where the premise of a joke is set up, or “framed,” in one way and then shifted into a different frame for comedic effect. Most humor is built this way —the incongruity of an unexpected twist in a joke leads to laughs.
But the “frame blending” of dark humor requires an extra step and more cognitive resources since the conscious mind would actually have to overcome its distaste for the inappropriate subject matter in order to get to the punchline of the joke.
Before you start working on your stand-up routine purely based on Helen Keller jokes, it’s worth mentioning the bottom end of the IQ bell curve also had a smaller but significantly pronounced tendency to laugh at the jokes presented in the study.
In fact it was only people of average intelligence that had trouble appreciating the darker jokes.
So next time someone tells you you’re being “inappropriate” because this is a “funeral,” you can remind them that it’s because of your higher than average IQ. Or your much lower than average IQ. Either way at least you’re not normal which I’m sure the person chastising you would agree with.