Comedians have psychotic personality traits, study finds

Thu Jan 16, 2014 1:59am EST
 
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Having an unusual personality structure could be the secret to making other people laugh, scientists said on Thursday after research showed that comedians have high levels of psychotic personality traits.

In a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers analyzed comedians from Australia, Britain and the United States and found they scored significantly higher on four types of psychotic characteristics compared to a control group of people who had non-creative jobs.

The traits included a tendency towards impulsive or anti-social behavior, and a tendency to avoid intimacy.

"The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis - both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder," said Gordon Claridge of the University of Oxford's department of experimental psychology, who led the study.

Although the traits in question are known as "psychotic", Claridge said, they can also represent healthy equivalents of features such as moodiness, social introversion and the tendency to lateral thinking.

"Although schizophrenic psychosis itself can be detrimental to humor, in its lesser form it can increase people's ability to associate odd or unusual things or to think 'outside the box'," he said.

"Equally, manic thinking - which is common in people with bipolar disorder - may help people combine ideas to form new, original and humorous connections."

The researchers recruited 523 comedians - 404 men and 119 women - and asked them to complete an online questionnaire designed to measure psychotic traits in healthy people.   Continued...