The Relationship Between Humor and Intelligence in Children

Humor and its impact on children's intelligence: Did you know that funnier children also have better cognitive abilities? Learn more.
The Relationship Between Humor and Intelligence in Children
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 22 February, 2024

Each child is unique. They all have their own virtues, qualities, and talents that stand out in one or several specific areas. There are children who are very athletic and others who are very artistic, there are those who have great reasoning abilities, and others who always know how to bring a smile to our faces. But, have you ever thought about the relationship between humor and intelligence in children?

Indeed, today we want to talk to you about humor and its impact on children’s intelligence. In fact, a sense of humor is a great tool for little ones. It helps them to receive positive attention from adults and be better accepted in a peer group. It can even help them cope with or transform difficult situations (Fox et al., 2016).

But in addition, some research suggests that it’s the most intelligent children who benefit the most from the use of humor. We’ll tell you why.

Humor and its influence on children’s cognitive development

At first glance, a sense of humor and IQ seem to be two different constructs that shouldn’t necessarily be related. Our prejudices sometimes lead us to consider that intelligent people are serious and that the wittiest or most humorous individuals don’t stand out for their cognitive brilliance. However, research shows the opposite.

An interesting study published in the journal Humor highlighted that the funniest or most humorous children are also the most intelligent. The test was conducted with 217 Turkish students who were asked to complete a series of vignettes or cartoons with humorous dialogues.

These had to be funny, but also relevant to the context. They were then evaluated by a series of experts. The findings are surprising!

They found a parallel between humor and intelligence. The more intelligent a child was, the more creative, funny, witty, and relevant their dialogue was. In other words, intelligence was able to explain 68% of the variance in humorous ability.

Why are smarter children also funnier?

The results show that higher intelligence is associated with a better sense of humor in children. But why does this happen, and what’s the reason for this association? Well, this is due to several reasons.

Cognitive abilities

To be a humorous or funny person, it’s important to be able to understand humor and also to be able to generate new ideas, concepts, or funny and original associations. Because of this, we understand that humor is influenced by a number of cognitive abilities (Christensen et al., 2018).

It’s important to have a large vocabulary (allowing good verbal expression), as well as good abstract reasoning and high mental agility. This allows for associating ideas, creating metaphors, and generating witty and creative mental representations.

You might be interested in: Humor in Social Education

Prior learning

At the same time, previous experiences and learning play an important role in making children both smarter and more humorous. We understand that general intelligence is divided into two factors: Fluid intelligence (related to a person’s innate potential), and crystallized intelligence (based on acquired experiences and learning).

Crystallized intelligence is the one most associated with a sense of humor. And this is because children can find humorous material in experiences they’ve lived, previous learning, and situations to which they have been exposed before.

In short, everything they’ve seen and heard enriches their personal background from which they can then draw to find or create humor in different situations.

Harnessing humor and its impact on children’s intelligence

This humorous capacity brings great benefits. As reported in an article published in the journal Humor, humor is associated with better psychological adjustment and lower levels of anxiety and depression. In addition to greater self-esteem and satisfaction with life. Therefore, it is positive to promote it in the life of the little ones.

However, this should be humor that’s intelligent, affirmative, and self-improving. That is, healthy humor that allows them to cope with stress and improve relationships with others.

To this end, we can contribute by offering children stimulating and enriching experiences that, besides improving their crystallized intelligence, will contribute to their sense of humor.

In addition, we can help them to look at everyday situations with a relativistic and carefree spirit that’ll help them to see the positive or funny side of each event (McGhee & Frank, 2014). And the fact is that the way situations affect them will depend on the way they’ve learned to observe them.

In short, humor is a sign and expression of a child’s intelligence, and it’s also a powerful tool for their well-being. So, let’s help them build and enjoy a sense of humor.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.