People with a GSOH are highly sought-after partners. Humor is one of the most frequently mentioned qualities that people look for in a partner. The lonely hearts advertisements in the Swiss free evening paper Blick am Abend confirm this hypothesis. According to psychologist Jennifer Hofmann, “most people are looking for someone with a good sense of humor.”
But why is humor so desirable? Jennifer Hofmann has a theory, shared by various researchers, that it comes down to evolutionary biology: “Women want a fit man.” Men should for example not just have nice skin, strong muscles or a full head of hair, but also a sense of humor which he shows off like a peacock fanning its feathers. For women, humor is evidently seen as part of a man’s (mental) fitness – it’s probably an indicator of intelligence, because someone who has a sense of humor knows how to play with ideas. Men also appreciate it if women have a sense of humor, but in a more passive way. Hofmann says the tendency is that “men like to make women laugh, and women enjoy men’s jokes.” What may sound like a tired cliché is confirmed by studies looking at the perceived mutual attractiveness of men and women who were filmed with hidden cameras during their first meeting. The analysis of the couples’ body language, laughter and conversation shows a correlation between the amount the woman laughs at the man’s jokes and his desire to see her again.
But why is humor in a partnership valuable, apart from the fact that it can be a sign of mental agility? “Humor strengthens relationships,” says Hofmann. For example by helping couples to get through difficult situations or just in general generating positive emotions. In addition, humor enhances life satisfaction, self-esteem and feelings of optimism – and who doesn’t like being with people who enjoy life and have a positive world view? The same holds true not just for romantic partnerships, but also for friendships in general. After all, who would you choose to spend more time with: The wisecracker or the crank?