Girls' and boys' brains respond differently to funny videos

Posted on July 6, 2013

When exposed to humour, women's brains exhibit more activity than men's in reward-related regions. Some experts say this is consistent with an idea derived from evolutionary theory that women are predisposed to be humour appreciators whereas men are humour producers. According to this view, women use a man's comedic skills as a way to appraise his genetic fitness.

An obvious objection here is with the word "predisposed". Who's to say whether these gender differences are innate or if they're a result of cultural influences? A new study has started to answer this question by scanning the brains of girls and boys as they viewed funny videos - the first time that gender-related brain differences in response to humour have been examined in children.

Pascal Vrticka and his colleagues showed the funny clips, including people falling over and animals performing tricks, to 22 healthy children - 13 girls, 9 boys - aged from six to thirteen (data from a further ten children was lost because they moved about too much in the scanner). For comparison, the children also watched "positive" clips, featuring dancers and snowboarders among other things, and neutral clips, which featured nature videos and kids riding bikes. As they watched the clips the children's brains were scanned with fMRI. The children also said how much they enjoyed the clips and how funny they found them.

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Source material from The Bristish Psychological Society

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