Aging & Longevity
Senior Citizens Have a Different
Sense of Humor
Does our sense of humor change as we
age? Or is it based on life experiences?
2, 2014 - TV sitcoms in which characters make jokes at someone else’s
expense are no laughing matter for older adults, according to a
University of Akron researcher and two co-authors who examined whether
young, middle-aged and older adults found clips of inappropriate social
behavior to be funny.
Jennifer Tehan Stanley, an assistant professor of
psychology, studied how young, middle-aged and older adults reacted to
so-called “aggressive humor”—the kind that is a staple on shows like
By showing clips from The Office and other
sitcoms (Golden Girls, Mr. Bean, Curb Your Enthusiasm) to adults
of varying ages, she and colleagues at two other universities found that
young and middle-aged adults considered aggressive humor to be funny
while older adults did not.
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The older adults preferred “affiliative humor,” in
which a number of characters share and navigate an awkward situation.
Stanley and her co-authors, Monika Lohani of
Brandeis University and Derek M. Isaacowitz of Northeastern University,
published their findings in the journal Psychology and Aging.
The study raises some intriguing questions about
our concept of what is funny. Is that concept based on factors peculiar
to generations, or does it evolve over time as we age and, perhaps,
“Those possibilities will need to be explored in a
future episode of humor research,” says Stanley. “Stay tuned.”
About Jennifer Tehan Stanley
About Psychology at UA