New research indicates that being labeled a "class clown" may not be such a bad thing.

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From kindergarten all the way to senior year of college, there's always a handful of students that pride themselves on their witty sense of humor and perfectly timed jokes. These students are often labeled "class clowns" and shrugged off as attention seekers, but there's more to them than meets the eye. A recent study published in Humor: International Journal of Humor Research found that children who exhibit an excellent sense of humor may also be highly intelligent, confirming a long-believed connection between the two personality traits. 

Researchers gathered 217 student participants in grades six and seven. The participants came from seven different schools in a large city in the mid-western part of Turkey. Researchers measured intelligence by the Anadolu Sak Intelligence Scale. Most of the students fell in a normal range, while 8.3% were below the normal range and 17.5% were considered highly intelligent. Once intelligence levels among the students were established, researchers administered a humor assessment. Ten cartoons were given to the students, five of which did not have any captions and the rest had one caption. The students' captions were scored by humor experts who rated them for funniness and relevance. 

four kids in classroom playing with blocks on table
Credit: paulaphoto / Getty Images

When researchers compared the intelligence and humor performance of the participants, they found that general intelligence was highly correlated with humor. Children with higher verbal reasoning and general knowledge were more likely to have higher humor capabilities. Overall, intelligence accounted for 68% of the difference in humor ability among the students. "We were particularly interested in the quality of humor made by children but evaluated by adults. Parents and teachers should be aware that if their children or students frequently make good quality humor, it is highly likely that they have extraordinary intelligence," says lead study author Professor Ugur Sak from Anadolu University. 

Sak explained that the research didn't find a similar connection between intelligence and humor in adults, but study authors believe culture plays a role in this. A joke that's considered funny in one culture may miss the mark in another. Similarly, certain behaviors associated with intelligence in one culture, may be interpreted completely different someplace else. "While humor is frequently used for entertainment by adults, children use it mostly for peer acceptance. Therefore, the nature of adult and child humor differs." 

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