They're Still Laughing After All Those Years

Published Online: Saturday, November 1, 2003

    A Canadian study found that seniors enjoy laughing just as much as young people do. In the study, researchers wanted to understand how appreciation of humor changes as people age. Therefore, they gave humor tests to 37 people (17 with an average age of 28 and 20 with an average age of 73) and then compared the 2 groups.

    In 1 test, called ?appreciation of humorous verbal installments,? the volunteers read English-language instructions found in foreign establishments and rated how amusing they were. Another test explored how well volunteers understood the typical structure of a joke, in which there is a ?surprise? (the punch line) that makes sense in the context of the entire scenario created by the joke. In the final test, the participants looked at several series of 4 similar cartoons and decided which had a specific detail that made it funny.

    Using a monitor to measure ?mirth responses,? checking to see who smiled or laughed, the researchers found that the senior citizens scored poorly on the joke completion test and were more apt to fail the cartoon test, too. The seniors, however, did better than younger people with brain lesions.(The findings were reported in the September 2003 issue of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.)

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