Positivity is a funny thing

Written by Science

Alexandra Lammerink via unspalsh.

Want to make someone laugh? It’s easier to do so if they’re already in a good mood. But what if your own mood can actually affect how funny you are?

Recent research at the University of New South Wales has found that mood influences a person’s ability to be funny. Participants in the study were shown mood affecting films and asked to come up with humorous cartoon captions. Results showed that those in a positive mood were able to produce funnier, more elaborate, and more creative sentences. They also took more time to consider and create their captions than those who experienced a negative mood.

So why does being happier make you funnier?

Joseph Forgas and his team proposed two possibilities. Positive mood either affects what a person thinks of or how a person thinks. It could be that positive mood primes a person, so they are ready to and find it easier to access and recall positive memories or memories that occurred when they were previously in a positive mood. Or it may be that positive mood promotes a style of thinking that is more creative, generative, and relies on higher cognitive functioning.

ELEVATE via Pexels.

This study found the latter –  humour is the result of a person’s thinking style. Being positive appeared to promote thinking that was more inventive and ingenious, so when it comes to being humorous positive mood produced better results. However the researchers do acknowledge that what a person is primed to retrieve, and recall may have some slight influence, as whilst trying to come up with funny captions participants were more likely to use memories from when they were in a positive mood rather than a negative mood.

So next time you want to cheer someone up with a joke, or impress them with just how amazingly funny you are, make sure you’re feeling bubbly and upbeat and you might just get better results.

Last modified: 18th June 2020

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