A dark sense of humor is now being touted as the new gauge of intelligence. A new study in the journal Cognitive Processing shows that intelligence plays a key role in the enjoyment and appreciation of sick jokes or black humor. The researchers also find that this kind of humor also measures several other factors, including mood and a person’s aggression levels.
The researchers, led by Ulrike Willinger in Vienna, asked 156 participants with the average age of 33 to rate their comprehension and enjoyment of a set of cartoons depicting black humor from The Black Book by the renowned German cartoonist Uli Stein. They were also tested for verbal and non-verbal IQ. Data on their mood, aggression, and educational background were also gathered.
The study found that the group which scored highest on the dark sense of humor also got the highest scores in verbal and non-verbal IQ tests. They were also better educated. Interestingly, they were found to have scored lower for aggression and bad mood, the The Guardian says.
The findings contradict initial theories about the link between aggression and humor. In 1905, Freud proposed that humor serves as a safe release of usually repressed sexual and aggressive urges. Willinger and her team suggest that enjoying black humor was a “complex information-processing task” that is clouded by negative moods and high aggression levels.
“This fits with past research showing that sense of humor correlates with IQ, but refutes the somewhat commonly-held belief that people who like black humor tend to be grumpy and perhaps a little prone to sadism,” the researchers write about their finding. However, according to the Medical Daily, a sudden appreciation of dark humor that previously didn't exist when you were younger may be a sign of something more sinister than high intelligence. A 2015 study found that an unexplained shift to a dark sense of humor could be a an early symptom of the sudden onset of dementia.