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James W. Pennebaker, Chair The University of Texas at Austin, SEA 4.212, Austin, TX 78712 • (512) 475-7596

Attraction May Lead People to Appear Funnier, Research Shows

Posted: May 4, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Both sexes are more likely to initiate humor and consider the other person to be funnier if they are attracted to them, according to new research at The University of Texas at Austin.

"Whether we are interacting with a stranger or a friend, or looking for a potential romantic partner," said Norm Li, psychologist at The University of Texas at Austin, "we seek and rapidly notice humor. If a person initiates humor with you, they're much more likely to be interested in you than if they don't."

Researchers Norman Li and Kristina Durante's findings will be published in the upcoming issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The research explores whether people who are funny are more attractive or if being attractive makes people seem funnier. According to their findings, the answer may depend on the underlying evolutionary function of humor.

Although being humorous may be attractive because it signals genetic quality, evidence suggests that humor serves another important function: to help initiate and monitor social relationships.

"People are more likely to laugh and react positively to humor if they reciprocate interest," said Li. "So, we can say that humor is diagnostic of relationship interest, even more so than general conversation and emotional warmth."

While recent studies on humor have focused on how humor initiation can be attractive, these new findings show the converse is true: being attractive or desirable makes you appear funnier.

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