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Many people say they want their romantic partner to have a great sense of humor, but eHarmony CEO Grant Langston thinks he can do better: He wants to know exactly which kinds of humor people prefer.
“Human beings think sense of humor matters,” Langston tells Business Insider. “We’re trying to find out if it does matter. We’re trying to type people for humor.”
People who can quote every joke in “Airplane!” may not be the same people who laugh at cartoons in the New Yorker or enjoy a good fart joke. To address those comedic nuances, eHarmony is currently conducting research that the company intends to incorporate into its matchmaking algorithm.
That research has identified nine distinct categories of humor: physical, self-deprecating, surreal, improvisational, witty, topical, observational, bodily, and dark. Over the next several months, eHarmony will test the theory that people with similar senses of humor will enjoy richer, stronger relationships.
The company has performed two studies to test that model so far, with three more in the pipeline. In the studies, participants are given a couple dozen video clips to watch, each about 30 seconds long. They include skits from “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, stand-up comedy, viral Internet prank videos, and more. People rate how funny each is along the way.
The final product: an individualized sense of humor web, with each category scored out of five possible points depending on how funny a given person rated each clip.
Langston sent me the test — I scored a 5 on witty, self-deprecating, and bodily, and a 1 on surreal. The others fell somewhere in between.
In the lab studies, participants who’d taken the humor test were then set up on a handful of 10-minute speed dates. At the end, they noted which people they’d like to see again. To figure out what role humor plays in romantic chemistry, Langston and his team will see how much overlap there is between people who matched in humor types and those who matched in the speed dates.
“At this point, it seems very likely that it will be an important way to match people,” Langston says, but adds that isn’t the final step. “You have to ask yourself, Does it correlate to better relationships?”
That remains to be seen, since eHarmony has yet to roll out the system in its actual service. Langston says he’s still figuring out the best way to integrate that video-watching into the existing onboarding process. People may be perfectly happy to take 15 minutes out of their day to watch random Internet videos — or they may not.
At the very least, Langston says, people do want partners who like to laugh, and it’s worth seeing whether they’ll like them more if they find the same dumb joke or witty retort equally funny.
“It’s easy to see that if you’re a certain humor profile and this person is a certain humor profile, I want you guys to meet each other,” he says. Langston acknowledges, however, that common interests are still important. “If your compatibility is also good, then that is a home run for us.”