Humor appreciation in elderly people and its cognitive determinants

Beata Daniluk, Aneta Borkowska


Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in humor appreciation exhibited by people from various age groups. There are still few data on how aging affects the perception of humorous contents. The literature suggests that elderly people exhibit increasing difficulties in understanding jokes. The aim of the study was to analyze and compare the level of humorous content comprehension in people in early and late old age and to identify its determinants. The participants were 109 individuals with physiological aging, divided into two age groups: group < 70 y.o. and group ≥ 71 y.o. We used interview, Mini-Mental State Examination, and the Right Hemisphere Language Battery. In the Verbal Humor Appreciation test, older seniors gave significantly fewer correct answers than younger seniors. Women indicated more correct answers and fewer absurd ones than men. The ability to produce humor in old age is significantly predicted by the general state of mental functions and higher education. The scores on Verbal Humor Appreciation correlated with scores in Mini-Mental State Examination and with scores in the remaining tests on the RHLB battery. The ability to appreciate humorous contents appears to be dependent on age, gender, and the level of linguistic functions, conceptual thinking, sensitivity to prosodic elements, and discursive abilities. The results confirm the deterioration of processes significantly involving the right hemisphere with age.


aging; cognitive functioning; humor; communication; right hemisphere

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