In 2009, the Journal of Psychology published a study that investigated the effect of different levels of humor on attractiveness and desirability as a long-term partner.
The study was conducted by Elizabeth McGee of the University of California and Mark Shevlin of the University of Ulster.
In their study, McGee and Shevlin recruited 180 male and female undergraduate college students. These students read a description of an potential partner of the opposite sex in which he or she was either described as having a good sense of humor, an average sense of humor, or no sense of humor. They were then asked to rate how attractive the person described was and to rate how suitable he or she was as a long-term partner.
Not surprisingly, those described as having a good sense of humor were perceived as being more attractive and more suitable as a long-term romantic partner.
But why is humor seen as attractive?
“These preferences may reflect the norms and stereotypes of the culture,” McGee and Shevlin note, but there also may be other reasons.
For example, humor may be an indication of other potentially valuable and attractive characteristics. Previous research “found that individuals described as being well above average in sense of humor were perceived as lower in neuroticism and higher in agreeableness than typical or below average sense of humor.”
Furthermore, as McGee and Shevlin describe, “If happiness or amusement is an end goal in itself and a partner’s sense of humor creates happiness or amusement, then sense of humor directly aids the realization of this goal.”
McGee, E. & Shevlin, M. (2009). Effect of humor on interpersonal attraction. The Journal of Psychology, Vol 143, No 1: 67-77.