Ha ha? Assessing individual differences in humor production ability

Emily C. Nusbaum, Paul J. Silvia, Roger E. Beaty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Humor is one of the most salient examples of verbal creativity in everyday life, but relatively little is known about individual differences in the ability to be funny. The present research examines the assessment of humor production ability-the ability to generate funny ideas on the spot. With only a few exceptions, humor ability research has relied on a single task: asking people to write captions for single-panel cartoons. In 3 studies, we evaluate the cartoon-captions task alongside a recent résumé-completion task developed by Howrigan and MacDonald (2008) and 2 new tasks that we developed: a joke-completion task (writing a funny conclusion to a joke set up by the researcher) and a definitions task (writing a funny definition for an odd noun-noun pair, such as yoga bank and cereal bus). In all 3 studies, the newer tasks covaried strongly with the cartoon captions task, suggesting that they measure the same underlying humor production ability. Of the major personality factors, measured based on the NEO (Studies 1 and 2) and HEXACO (Study 3) models, only openness to experience significantly predicted humor ability, and its effects were medium and large in size (β =.48 [.34,.63]; β =.54 [.39,.70]; β =.36 [.22,.50]). The findings suggest that humor ability shares much in common with other forms of verbal creativity, and that researchers could adopt a multimethod approach to measuring it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-241
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Ha ha? Assessing individual differences in humor production ability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this