A New Study Shows Humor and Intelligence in Kids Are Related

Boy telling grandfather a joke

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • A new study says that intelligence is related to humor in children.
  • The Turkish study found that kids who scored higher on IQ testing were funnier and more quick-witted.
  • Having an extensive knowledge base and a variety of exposures can contribute to a child’s intellectual capacity.

The kid who makes everyone laugh and has a great sense of humor may also have a high IQ, according to a new study conducted in Turkey. The study, published in the journal Humor earlier this year, found that children with strong senses of humor were more likely to score well on IQ tests and have strong verbal and reasoning abilities.

While topics that are considered funny may differ in various cultures, the study results give insight into what traits contribute to humor in kids.

All About the Study

Researchers with Anadolu University in Turkey culled data from over 200 participants—sixth and seventh graders from the mid-western part of the country. The students came from several different schools across the region.

The study authors used the Anadolu Sak Intelligence Scale (ASIS), the first Turkish test providing intelligence profile scores, to assess the students' intellectual aptitude and IQ levels. Students then completed the Humor Ability Assessment Form (HAAF), which listed 10 cartoons for each child to review. Half of the cartoons only had partial dialogue, with one caption written and at least one empty dialogue box. The other half of the cartoons had zero dialogue, and children were expected to fill all the empty dialogue boxes. The goal was for the students to write comic dialogue where none was present.

Felice Martin, MS, NCC, LPC

[Researchers] were looking at how these children reason. Are they able to think quickly on their feet? Do they have that memory center?

— Felice Martin, MS, NCC, LPC

A group of seven experts—five cartoonists and two humor educators—used the Consensual Assessment Technique (CAT) to rate the cartoons. The CAT helps rate creativity and creative performance. Each cartoon received two scores: The first score was based on relevance, and whether the experts understood the cartoon that the child wrote. The second score was based on experts' determination of how funny the cartoon was.

Based on the experts' ratings, they were then able to draw a parallel between intelligence scoring and humor. They found that the higher the student’s score on the ASIS test, the higher the score on their humor ability test. In other words, the smarter they were, the funnier they were. High verbal ability and visual-spatial ability were linked to kids' ability to be funny.

While the study results are intriguing, the study itself does have limitations. Humor is subjective. What one culture finds funny may not be humorous in another culture. This study specifically looked at what was humorous in Turkish culture. The same humor may not translate in the United States or other countries; still, the study results provide a look at why some children are considered to have a stronger sense of humor than others.

Clever Humor is the Key

Earlier research from other sources supports the findings of this latest Turkish study. Research consistently shows a link between the ability to be funny and intelligence. Experts say it may not be as simple as a kid is smart and therefore funny—rather, their capacity to rationalize and respond enters into play.

“[Researchers] were looking at how these children reason. Are they able to think quickly on their feet? Do they have that memory center?" states Felice Martin, MS, NCC, LPC, a neuro-coach and neuro-leader at the Behavioral Health Associates of Georgia, LLC.

Martin notes that humor in children can also be tied to previous learning. "Are [children] able to relate humorous situations to past experiences, past exposures, maybe some things that they’ve read or some things that they’ve seen?”

In fact, Martin states that when children are exposed to activities that stimulate the left hemisphere of the brain, which deals with logical thinking, it can impact their intelligence. The kids then have a larger base of material, experiences, words, and verbal reasoning to draw from.

Experts note that having witty words and clever jokes to say is important, but so is delivery.

Latoria Hairston, LPC

I believe that intelligence can play a part in a child’s ability to understand humor, in creating humorous material, and knowing how to deliver it in a comical way.

— Latoria Hairston, LPC

“I believe that intelligence can play a part in a child’s ability to understand humor, in creating humorous material, and knowing how to deliver it in a comical way,” explains Latoria Hairston, MA, CMFT, CPCS, CCTP, NCC, BC-TMH, a licensed professional counselor with The Latoria Group, LLC, Counseling Services. “The pent-up excitement that bubbles out as one gets closer and closer to the end of their joke or funny story can be contagious."

Interestingly, kids often use humor to be accepted and included by their peers, as well as to gain attention. Humor can also be a defense mechanism, allowing kids to deflect attention from something negative and shift focus to the joke itself. Intelligence also factors in as children learn how to use humor to their advantage in a given situation.

What This Means For You

While intelligence measures a specific aptitude, humor gives a broader look at the ability to take information and understand it, process it, then present it in a way that creates a connection with others. As the study notes, humor and intelligence go hand in hand.

When children have exposure to different experiences, they have more knowledge bases to draw from to make others laugh. If your child is witty and able to make others laugh, they may also have strong verbal and reasoning skills. However, there is no need to worry if humor is not your child's strength. Kids can still be intelligent and skilled regardless of their humor abilities.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Arslan D, Sak U, Atesgoz NN. Are more humorous children more intelligent? A case from Turkish culture. HUMOR. 2021:1-22. doi:10.1515/humor-2021-0054

  2. Christensen AP, Silvia PJ, Nusbaum EC, Beaty RE. Clever people: intelligence and humor production ability. Psychol Aesthet Creat Arts. 2018;12(2):136-143. doi:10.1037/aca0000109

  3. Fox CL, Hunter SC, Jones SE. Children's humor types and psychosocial adjustment. Pers Individ Differ. 2016;89:86-91. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.09.047

By LaKeisha Fleming
LaKeisha Fleming is a prolific writer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of formats, from film and television scripts, to magazines articles and digital content. She has written for CNN, Tyler Perry Studios, Motherly, Atlanta Parent Magazine, Fayette Woman Magazine, and numerous others. She is passionate about parenting and family, as well as destigmatizing mental health issues. Her book, There Is No Heartbeat: From Miscarriage to Depression to Hope, is authentic, transparent, and providing hope to many.Visit her website at www.lakeishafleming.com.