There’s a good reason disturbing things can be funny.
("Broad City" stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer)
Do movies like “American Psycho,” “Fargo,” or “The Evil Dead” make you laugh more than cringe? If so, most people probably think you’re slightly demented — and you probably get a kick out of it. But research out of the Medical University of Vienna, published in Cognitive Processing, shows that a sick sense of humor also means you’re more intelligent. Look, you’re still a sicko, but you’re a smart sicko.
Image from "American Psycho" via Twitter
A team of researchers, led by Ulrike Willinger at the Medical University of Vienna, asked 156 participants to rate their enjoyment of 12 cartoons from “The Black Book” by Uli Stein. But these were no ordinary cartoons you’d find in a newspaper. The cartoons were described by researchers as “deep black humor beyond all limits of taste.” The participants were also given verbal and nonverbal IQ tests.
"Love and Death" via Twitter
Researchers found that people who appreciate disturbing humor also tested higher on the IQ tests than those who were repulsed by the cartoons. They also revealed that enjoying dark humor is a “complex information-processing task.” That makes sense; the humor in “American Psycho” works on a much deeper and more complex level than the jokes on the average sitcom.
An appreciation for gallows humor also can be a big help for people in stressful situations. A 2011 study found that journalists who have been exposed to traumatic images and events often use dark humor as a coping mechanism. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter activates and relieves your stress response, soothes tension, and relieves pain. So when David Caruso rips off a sweet one-liner after finding a dead body on “CSI Miami,” he’s not just being funny, he’s relieving his stress and that of the corpse, too.