Got a dark sense of humour? You’re probably a genius

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Kayleigh Dray

Raise your hand if you’ve ever left friends horrified during a game of Cards Against Humanity, cackled at a loved one’s misfortune, or been met with awkward stares and a very frosty silence after delivering a close-to-the-bone punch line.

We see your hands, ladies – and we feel your pain.

While being the office’s answer to Morticia Addams may feel like a thankless task sometimes, scientists have now confirmed what we suspected all along; a dark and twisted sense of humour is a mark of superior intelligence.

And it also indicates that a person is less likely to be violent or aggressive, too.

A team of psychologists conducted a study which allowed them to take a closer look at the effects and benefits of gallows humour (which they defined as the “kind of humour that treats sinister subjects like death, disease, deformity, handicap or warfare with bitter amusement and presents such tragic, distressing or morbid topics in humorous terms”).

To do this, they asked 156 participants to rate their comprehension and enjoyment of 12 black humour cartoons taken from The Black Book by Uli Stein.

Those partaking in the study then completed a series of verbal and non-verbal IQ tests, before answering a series of questions about their mood, aggressive tendencies, and educational background.

The results clearly showed that intelligence and understanding of the cartoons were tightly linked; subjects who scored highest on both verbal and non-verbal intelligence were also most likely to say that they got the joke, and, furthermore, that they actually found it funny.

Perhaps more intriguingly, the same people were also toward the lower end of the spectrum on aggression and didn’t report especially negative moods.

Professor Ulrike Willinger, who led the research, noted that this “refutes the somewhat commonly held belief that people who like black humour tend to be grumpy and a little prone to sadism.”

Instead, calmer, happier, and smarter people tend to be more likely to recognise and enjoy the “playful fiction” of a truly twisted joke.

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It’s worth pointing out that a separate study has found that dark humour is most prevalent in those who have experienced trauma in their lives, as it acts as a coping mechanism – and laughter has long been proven to increase wellbeing too.

So, the next time something colossally awful happens in the world (we’re looking at you, Trump), it’s best to stare the darkness down, find something funny in it all, throw back your head, and laugh.

You are an evil genius, after all.


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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