If you’ve ever found yourself awkwardly laughing at the darker side of life, whilst friends and loved ones look on. You might well have a dark sense of humour. If you have a dark sense of humour you can find the lighter side of heavy topics such as death, disease and warfare. Although it may sometimes come across to others who don’t share your sense of humour as being rather grim and inappropriate.

Having the ability to tackle dark topics with a sense of humour has been linked to a higher IQ as well as higher emotional intelligence. 

Recently research at the Medical University of Vienna did a study looking at “gallows”, or dark, humour. They asked participants to rate a number of black humour jokes, in both cartoon and written forms. Based on a number of different scales, including rating the joke for its humour, vulgarity, whether the punchline surprised them and whether they enjoyed the joke. The participants also took a number of other tests to rate their overall intelligence, aggressiveness and average mood. Researchers then compared the findings and came to some interesting conclusions.

The researchers found that those who most appreciated the black humour had a mix of high intelligence, low aggressiveness and “good” average mood. Just intelligence or low aggressiveness for example wasn’t enough – it was the participants who had both who found the black humour the funniest.

Clearly, black humour isn’t as simple as it appears!

The other side of the coin is that people who were rated as average for all the measures enjoyed black humour the least. This probably explains why black humour is such a difficult topic. Most people are going to be in the average range – that’s how averages work! 

If we take a step back for a second and think about this from a laypersons perspective it makes a lot of sense. If you can find and appreciate the lighter side of dark moments, then you are probably going to be better-adjusted. As well, the ability to appreciate complex jokes is usually a sign of intelligence. Appreciating humour means knowing how things are supposed to be and understanding the humour that is involved in disrupting that natural order. 

The emotional stability of the participants might have informed their ability to laugh at dark matters. Emotional stability means you can accept the bad things in life more easily. Which of course means you have more chance of laughing at them. If you find it hard to accept that life can be tough at times, it’s hardly surprising that you are not going to be laughing all the way home after hearing a joke that makes light of a serious topic.

So next time you’re trying to stifle a laugh from a particularly dark joke, or maybe you accidentally make a joke that goes down like a lead balloon, take comfort that at least you are higher in intelligence and lower in aggressiveness than your average citizen. Although you still might want to watch out next time you get the urge to make a particularly dark joke!