Old people just don’t get it
July 11, 2007
It’s no laughing matter: a new study suggests older adults have a harder time getting jokes as they age. The research indicates that because older adults may have greater difficulty with cognitive flexibility, abstract reasoning and short-term memory, they also have greater difficulty with tests of humor comprehension.
Researchers at Washington University tested about 40 healthy adults over age 65 and 40 undergraduate students with exercises in which they had to complete jokes and stories. Participants also had to choose the correct punch line for verbal jokes and select the funny ending to series of cartoon panels.
the younger adults did 6 percent better on the verbal jokes and 14 percent better on the comic portion than did older participants
“There are basic cognitive mechanisms to understanding what’s going on in a joke. Older adults, because they may have deficits in some of those cognitive areas, may have a harder time understanding what a joke is about.”