The older you get, the more your taste in humour changes.

Making jokes at the expense of others becomes less funny as we age, according to a new study that used sitcoms to gauge humour at the University of Akron in Ohio, USA.

Researchers found that young and middle-aged people find “aggressive humour” funny, while their older counterparts do not. – Filepic

Dr Jennifer Tehan Stanley, an assistant professor of psychology, set out to observe reactions to what she calls “aggressive humour” that defines the style of TV sitcoms such as The Office.

In the experimentation phase of the study, she used clips from situation comedies such as Golden Girls, Mr Bean, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and of course, The Office.

Working with a participant group of 30 young adults between ages 17 and 21, 22 middle-aged adults between 35 and 56, and 29 older adults between 64 and 84, Dr Stanley showed them 14 clips from various situation comedies.

“While they watched the clips, we video-recorded their facial expressions to later code for smiles and laughter, and measured facial electromyography with electrodes on their face to capture activation of the smile muscle,” Dr Stanley says.

After each clip, participants were asked to rate how appropriate they thought the protagonist’s behaviour was and how funny they found the clip on a scale of 0 to 100, she explained, and they were screened on their understanding of the jokes.

Young and middle-aged participants found the aggressive humour funny, while their older counterparts did not, according to Dr Stanley.

Instead, they preferred “affiliative humour” in which several characters share and navigate an awkward situation.

The study was published in the journal Psychology And Aging. – AFP Relaxnews