Humor in Marriage in Five Cultures

Weisfeld, Glenn, Nicole Nowak, Todd Lucas, Carol Weisfeld, Olcay Imamoglu, Marina Butovaskaya, Jiliang Shen, and Michele Parkhill

We investigated the role of humor in marriage in the U.S., U.K., China, Turkey, and Russia. In the first four societies, husbands were perceived to make wives laugh more than the reverse, but wives were funnier in Russia. Spousal humorousness was less consistently related to spousal intelligence than to three other attributes, namely, kindness, understanding and dependability in a crisis for all of which humor seems to be a significant mediator. That is, humor in most cases mediates the relationship between these variables and marital satisfaction. We speculate that spouses use humor to gauge mood of the partner and to engender liking, perhaps especially in courtship and marriage. The greater humor production of husbands than wives may merely reflect the generally greater humorousness of males even in childhood, which in turn may reflect greater male competitiveness for social recognition.