Reunion 2006 Humor Survey Results

Reunion Humor Test Results

At Carleton Reunion 2006, the planning committee for the Class of ’66 scheduled a seminar on humor, including the administration of a Humor Quotient Test that has been administered to thousands of Midwestern respondents and has shown surprising statistical relationships to exist between one’s humor preferences and other seemingly totally separate life preferences—for example, favorite color.

Robin Jaeckle Grawe (’69) and I have been involved in this research project for the last 15 years, and we have been amazed at the variety of things that humor preference is related to. Many of the ultimate uses of such research findings may at first seem bizarre. For example, if humor and color are related, does this relationship ever work constructively in cinema which often depends on both humor in script and color in photography? As people in literary studies, we are moving toward these literary applications.

But back to reunion, it was gratifying to see 80-some people fill the auditorium in Boliou. The better part of these were Class of ’66, but other classes were represented, most notably the class of ’96.

Probably most of the respondents were most interested in what their scores say about them as individuals. (Everyone got to score their own test and received instructions for understanding the results.) Secondarily, I suppose we were all interested, if possible, to consider what might be distinctively a Carleton sense of humor.

There was however, a third question. Robin and I, remembering that Peter, Paul, and Mary came to Carleton early in the college career of the Class of ’66, arranged a side-test about people’s appreciation of Peter Paul, and Mary songs. If humor preference is related even to favorite color, is it possible after forty years that people’s humor preference would somehow or other relate to their favorable memories of Peter, Paul, and Mary songs?

As a first surprise, it was interesting that people from other classes, again notably those from ’96, were willing and anxious to record their impression of Peter, Paul and Mary songs. We had at least chosen an interesting side test!

Basis of the Humor Test

The Humor Quotient Test pits four different humors against each other an equal number of times. At least three of these four humors was discussed in George Meredith’s Essay on Comedy (1877) as Humor of the Mind.

Humors of the Mind include:

Gotcha(G): Someone thinks he or she is smart or otherwise talented and gets got.

Incongruity(I): Two or more ideas, concepts, or things clash humorously.

Word Play (W): Two or more words or word sets clash humorously.

Added to these three is Sympathetic Pain(SP) (which it is unclear that Meredith understands as a separate category): Someone experiences pain through no particular hubris of one’s own. Our reaction is typically a combination of laughter and some thought like “That’s okay, buddy, I know exactly how you feel.”

The key research finding of these analytically different humors is the synthetic proposition that one’s two most preferred humor types creates a ‘humor personality.’

We have named the six personality types thus generated as:

  1. Crusader (G+I)
  2. Advocate (G+W)
  3. Bridgebuilder(G+SP)
  4. Consoler (SP+W)
  5. Reconciler (SP+I)
  6. Intellectual (I+W)

Intellectual doesn’t mean smart—Carleton already certified that. It means dealing with words and ideas however competently or incompetently.

A Carleton Sense of Humor?

So, what kind of humor personalities do Carls have?

For 63 usaeable respondents, we found:

  • 21 Crusaders 33.3%
  • 16 Advocates 25.4
  • 9 Bridgebuilders 14.3
  • 3 Consolers 4.8
  • 8 Reconcilers 12.7
  • 6 Intellectuals 9.5

Perhaps it is not accidental that Carls are the Knights! (with maybe a few lawyers thrown in!)

But does this make Carls different from everybody else? (for example, Consolers and Reconcilers are the rarest humor personalities in all our respondent files, so the low Consoler score is not nearly as remarkable as it might at first appear.)

We have a data base of 106 adults tested in non-academic groups in the Upper Midwest.
Their humor preference distribution was:

  • 21 Crusaders 19.8%
  • 24 Advocates 22.7
  • 23 Bridgebuilders 21.7
  • 14 Consolers 13.2
  • 12 Reconcilers 11.3
  • 12 Intellectuals 11.3

Thus, perhaps our biggest finding about a Carleton Sense of Humor at Reunion is that Carls scored a much higher percentage of Crusaders than the control group and a much lower percentage of Consolers. (Incidentally, Crusaders and Consolers are mathematical opposites, or negatives of one another, since both constituents of the Crusader score are absent in the Consoler score and vice versa.)

Peter, Paul and Mary Correlates

But—you’ve got to be kidding me—what in the world could you possibly find out about Peter, Paul, and Mary?

“Blowin’” Wins Hands Down!

Well for starters, we asked for preferences between four Peter, Paul, and Mary songs: “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “500 Miles,” “ Stewball,” and “If I Had a Hammer.” On the basis of five preference questions per respondent, “Blowin in the Wind” was the overwhelming favorite PPM song. Congratulations, “Blowin’”!

That of course has no relationship whatever to humor preference.

PPM Preference and Humor Preference

For humor preference correlations, we chose to look only at the 36 respondents from the Class of ’66, since they shared a similar personal history concerning Peter, Paul, and Mary.

The slope coefficients between humor preference scores and song preference scores can be summarized as follows:

  500 Miles If I Had a Hammer Stewball Blowin’ in the Wind
Crusader -.7212 +.0898 -.3266 +.8944
Advocate +.4530 +.4682 +.1328 -1.1079
Bridgebuilder +.0709 +.4142 -.2718 -.2819

Thus, the slope correlation for Crusader is highest for “Blowin ‘ in the Wind.” The most negative Crusader slope (and thus the highest positive Consoler slope) is the correlation with “500 Miles.”

  • Crusaders are evidently looking for the Holy Grail and know what it means to find the quest blowing in the wind. Evidently Consolers can relate to “Not a penny to my name” and “500 miles from my home.”
  • The highest Advocate slope is marginally for” If I Had a Hammer” over “500 Miles.” The largest negative slope of the lot (and thus the highest positive Reconciler slope) is for “Blowin in the Wind.” Reconcilers are perhaps like Crusaders in searching for the unreachable. Advocates evidently want a hammer to “hammer out justice.”
  • Bridgebuilders were most atuned to” If I had a Hammer.” Bridgebuilders and hammers—huh!
  • The most negative Bridgebuilder (and thus the most positive Intellectual) slope was that for “Blowin in the Wind.”

Notice then, that the Crusader/Consoler polarity is the most decisive in determining these preferences while the Bridgebuilder/Intellectual polarity is in comparison quite weak.

Also, note that if “Blowin in the Wind” is the overall favorite of the songs, it is also most correlated with Crusader, Reconciler, and Intellectual. These three humor preferences have in common the analytic preference for Incongruity humor.

Robin and I would suggest that “Blowin’ in the Wind,” as a literary object, is a quintessentially strong statement of the incongruity between human idealism and historical realities.

— Paul Grawe ’66