Oh my GSOH

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

In pre-internet times, the closest you could get to a Tinder or Grindr profile was a personal ad, in which pretty much everyone professed to having a GSOH; a good sense of humour. But do you? To find out, complete the following zingers. Possible answers are shown at the bottom of the page, though if you’re reading the online version, feel free to leave better ones in the comments.

  • The angler told me he hadn’t had a bite in days. So…
  • The good-looking anesthetist was nicknamed “Appendix” because…
  • Carrots are definitely good for your eyesight. I’ve never seen…
  • Give him an inch and he…
  • Where does an elephant sit when he goes to the cinema?
  • Do you know your house is on fire?

Image via reddit user down_vote_magnet

Sorry if you found some of those jokes rather corny: they were based on a test published in 1983 (by Harvard Psychologist Alan Feingold). Nevertheless, they still do a pretty good job of tapping into your ability to detect and play around with incongruity. Incongruity isn’t enough for a decent joke on its own (Q: Why did the chicken cross the road? A: Five), but it does seem to be present in most – perhaps all – types of humour, from a Peter Kaye one-liner to Stewart Lee standing onstage listing flavours of crisp (or not listing flavours of jam). If you came up with a funny answer for each of the above, the good news is that Feingold’s study found a modest link between performance on this test and a standard measure of intelligence. Interestingly, though, the scores were not correlated with self-reported “sense of humour”: So just because you think you have a GSOH, there’s no reason to believe that others will feel the same.

Answers: (a) I bit him (b) all the doctors wanted to take him/her out (c) a rabbit wearing glasses (d) thinks he’s a ruler, (e) anywhere he likes, (f) no, but you hum a few bars and I’ll join in.

A fully referenced version of this article is available at benambridge.com. Order Psy-Q by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £8.99) for £6.99 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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