Humor styles: why the way we joke defines our personality

The analysis, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, showed connections between each style and the dark triad of narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism (Getty Images)

What makes you laugh could indicate if you are a narcissist or a psychopath, according to a new study. Researchers of the Studio Psi.Co. from Italy they studied the relationship between the descriptors of the comic style and the personality traits of the “dark triad”.

Is about psychopathy, defined by lack of empathy Y antisocial behavior; narcissism, an egocentric personality style; and Machiavellianism, showing manipulation and disregard for morals. Psychologists claim that those with these traits may use humor to put others down or elevate themselves in a more socially acceptable way than attacking directly or showing off.

Machiavellianism and psychopathy were positively correlated with the darker styles. The psychopathy showed the strongest positive correlations with mocking styles: satire, sarcasm, and cynicism. The Machiavellianism was the best predictor of irony and was not related to the other comic styles. The narcissism It was mainly correlated significantly with the lighter styles, being the best predictor of wit and humor, while it was not related to silliness.

As none of the study participants showed especially high levels of any of the three dark personality traits, future research could look at patterns with a more extreme group (Getty Images)
As none of the study participants showed especially high levels of any of the three dark personality traits, future research could look at patterns with a more extreme group (Getty Images)

researchers gave 715 adults two questionnaires: one to determine his comedic style and one to uncover any dark personality traits. They used a statistic analysis to determine any correlation between the two. The eight comic styles were defined in a 2018 study, and divided into styles “lighter” and “darker”.

The four styles lighter they are “fun”, “humor”, “nonsense” and “wit”, which share a base of benevolence and positive emotions. The darker styles they are “irony”, “satire”, “sarcasm” and “cynicism”, all of them related to mockery and ridicule.

The analysis, published in academic journal Personality and Individual Differences, showed connections between each style and the dark triad of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. Narcissism was associated with two of the lighter styles: fun and, above all, wit. Witty comments imply the appearance of unexpected jokes, indicating creativity and intelligence.

Also there was a small correlation with the darker style of satire, which can be evoked without damaging interpersonal relationships that are highly prized by narcissists. “Narcissists may use positive humor as a way to enhance their own reputations when interacting with others,” the authors wrote.

“Narcissists may use positive humor as a way to enhance their own reputations when interacting with others” (Getty Images)
“Narcissists may use positive humor as a way to enhance their own reputations when interacting with others” (Getty Images)

The psychopathy was strongly associated with darker styles of irony, sarcasm and cynicism. These aggressive humor and “laugh at” styles they reinforce that psychopaths have little empathy and are bullies by nature. “The psychopaths may use these types of humor to lower the status of others, swithout taking into account the feelings of others, since they are characterized by their deficit in emotional function and their antisocial behavior”, added the psychotherapists.

The Machiavellianism it was also related to irony and cynicism, with a stronger correlation with the former. The researchers claim that this is because irony is used to highlight the weaknesses of others in a socially acceptable way that does not tarnish one’s reputation.

“The Machiavellianism it is characterized by manipulative behaviors, and these individuals may use this form of humor as a way to control others,” they explained. He was also positively related to the ingenuityimplying playing with ideas and requires impulse control and cognitive ability demonstrating this personality trait. While Machiavellianism was negatively related to benevolent humor, who treats weaknesses with kindness.

For the researchers, this reinforces the fact that Machiavellians have no interest in helping others with their problems. Since none of the study participants showed especially high levels of any of the three dark personality traits, future research could analyze the patterns with a more extreme group.

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Humor styles: why the way we joke defines our personality