The Genetics of Humor!

Conclusion: Shared environment rather then genetic effects contributes to cartoon appreciation.

Twin Res 2000 Mar;3(1):17-22

Happy families: a twin study of humour.

Cherkas L, Hochberg F, MacGregor AJ, Snieder H, Spector TD.

Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology Unit, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK.

The objective of this study was to estimate how much of an individual's appreciation of humour is influenced by genetic factors, the shared environment or the individual's unique environment. A population-based classical twin study of 127 pairs of female twins (71 monozygous (MZ) and 56 dizygous (DZ) pairs) aged 20-75 from the St Thomas' UK Adult Twin Registry elicited responses to five 'Far Side' Larson cartoons on a scale of 0-10. Within both MZ and DZ twin pairs, the tetrachoric correlations of responses to all five cartoons were significantly greater than zero. Furthermore, the correlations for MZ and DZ twins were of similar magnitude and in some cases the DZ correlation was greater than that of the MZ twins. This pattern of correlations suggests that shared environment rather then genetic effects contributes to cartoon appreciation. Multivariate model-fitting confirmed that these data were best explained by a model that allowed for the contribution of the shared environment and random environmental factors, but not genetic effects. However, there did not appear to be a general humour factor underlying responses to all five cartoons and no effect of age was seen. The shared environment, rather than genetic factors, explains the familial aggregation of humour appreciation as assessed by the specific 'off the wall' cognitive type of cartoons used in this study.