Are You Funny? You May Be Psychotic

6 comments

Laugh_ComedienPhoto: Gerard Fritz/REX USA.
We've all got a friend (or two) who is just plain funny. In every social circle, this is the one who is always quick to make a joke — that lands, and generally has you in stitches. Hey, maybe that person is even you? But, according to a new study, super-funny people have personality types linked to psychosis. So, while funny, they're also kind of crazy. And, if that's the case, performance — like standup and improv — may be a form of self-medication.

Researchers at Oxford University studied 523 comedians (404 male, 119 female) from the U.K., U.S., and Australia. The comedians completed an online questionnaire designed to identify and measure psychotic traits in healthy people. The four aspects in question were unusual experiences (paranormal activity, telepathy), cognitive disorganization (easily distracted), introvertive anhedonia (avoiding intimacy and an impaired ability to feel social/physical pleasure), and impulsive nonconformity (impulsive, antisocial behavior). To form a control group, researchers surveyed 364 actors and 831 people who work in non-creative fields. The result? Comedians scored way higher on all four indicators than the general group.

Apparently, the elements of a humorous personality are quite similar to the cognitive style of people with psychosis, according to professor Gordon Claridge, of the University of Oxford's Department of Experimental Psychology. Claridge says that, though schizophrenic psychosis would impede humor, in a less intense form it would increase a person's ability to hone the odd observations comedians so often make. Manic thinking (found in those with bipolar disorder) can help you combine ideas to form new, original ones, which could also be useful for comedians.

Conversely, Dr. James MacCabe of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London told the BBC that "people with psychosis and schizophrenia have a very impaired ability to appreciate humorous material." And, while he believes the study does offer interesting information about the differences between comedians and actors, he doesn't believe it's enough to make a link to psychosis. More research is necessary to determine the exact relationship — if any — between comedy and psychosis. In the meantime, please feel free to analyze your friends. (BBC)