Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Women Don't Understand (why Adam Sandler is funny)

By Anne CasselmanFebruary 20, 2006 6:00 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Stanford University humor researcher Allan Reiss has a reassuring insight for all the men whose girlfriends and wives roll their eyes at Adam Sandler movies: Women really do enjoy a good laugh as much as you do; they are just wired to focus on different aspects of humor.

To understand how the brain reacts to humor, Reiss and his team had test subjects rate the hilarity of cartoons while undergoing fMRI brain scans. Although men and women described the cartoons as equally funny, the areas of their brains that lit up as a result differed. Women activated the left prefrontal cortex more than men, indicating that their processing of humor is rooted more heavily in language. This explains why women are more likely to appreciate wordplay over, say, the slapstick antics of a dim-witted water boy. Reiss also found that women showed a stronger response in the nucleus accumbens, the brain's reward center, suggesting that they ultimately derived bigger pleasure hits from punch lines.

Female mirth may also have a dark side. Women may have a more sensitive response to both positive and negative emotional stimuli, suggests Reiss, and that could help explain why they are twice as likely as men to become depressed.

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 50%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In