The Power of the Punch Line

We are all innately attracted to funny people. But why?

From a biological perspective, it makes sense that we desire a romantic partner who has healthy genes to pass on for generations and is fit and strong enough to defend our offspring. But what’s the evolutionary upshot of having a sense of humor? You’re probably not going to stop a saber-toothed tiger with a great double entendre.

Researchers actually have found the reason we like humor not only in a potential mate, but also in business partners, politicians and anyone else. Wit is a sign of cognitive fitness: Your brain must be flexible, quick and sharp to comprehend and create comedy. In negative situations, a positive person will be more adept at using humor to help others see a more positive reality.

An old bit of wisdom holds that there are two kinds of people: those who look for miracles and find them, and those who don’t look for miracles and see none. The same is true for humor in life.

You don’t have to be a comedian to make humor work for you. Keep an email folder of funny articles and videos you stumble across, then share them. And your brain practices what it visualizes. Those who watch comedies develop the unconscious rhythm of humor and actually become funnier. What a great way to reap the happiness advantage!


Shawn Achor is a Harvard-trained researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Get a daily dose of happy at Shawn's Facebook page.

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