This article reviews how laughter can help.
Lack of Emotional Bonding
- 75% have TV in their bedroom
- Two-thirds have DVD or Video player
- 25% have computer
- 80% have their own mobile phone
- Thirty percent of UK children never play outside without an adult watching over them.
- In 2005 359,000 children were prescribed Ritalin and 130,000 were prescribed SSRI antidepressants
Lack of Exercise
Johns Hopkins psychologist Ron Berk, Ph.D. conducted a study where he administered the same test to two groups of students in the same graduate level biostatics course. The students who were given funny instructions on their test — as opposed to simply didactic ones — averaged “significantly” higher test scores.
He shared several tips for injecting humor into your teaching in a 2005 article in Teaching Excellence (Vol. 17, No. 2):
- Make your syllabus funny. Insert jocular descriptors like the greatest class youll ever take under your course title, put funny prerequisites for the course like requiring students to have read War and Peace or list outrageous office hours, such as available from 12 to 12: 01 p.m. so that students actually read your syllabus.
- Use real or hypothetical humorous situations. Tap cartoons, TV clips and other examples to enliven abstract concepts. For instance, psychologist Randy Garner, PhD, uses American Idol audition episodes to illustrate self-handicapping and selection bias.
- Ask punch-line questions during question and answer sessions. Set up a joke by asking a question. After getting a response ask, How many of you think this is the correct answer? Then, add the punch, How many of you dont care? or How many of you dont like to be awakened during class?
- Make questions and examples outrageous, ridiculous or exaggerated. For instance, Berk asks students to analyze whether nurses who routinely participate in the sport Knock the Physician Off the Pedestal will demonstrate higher levels of joy than nurses who absolutely refuse to engage in such irreverent behavior by performing the separate variance T-test.
- Dramatize your material. Develop skits or demonstrations with music to illustrate theories, concepts and processes. In a parody of The Odd Couple, Berk wears a backward baseball cap and ill-fitting clothes while holding a large cigar as he stands alongside an impeccably dressed colleague. He asks his students to list the similarities between the two faculty members. Then, Berk has students compute a Pearson correlation and square it, which is the percentage of variance explained of one variable by the other.
We have heard of but have not yet taken the time to look for published references for:
- American College of Cardiology. Laughter stimulates the brain’s reward center which releases dopamine and then stimulates the frontal lobe and enhances thinking.
- Cerebral Cortex. In a study, the funnier subjects rated a cartoon, the harder the 2 hemispheres of the brain worked.
- Cornell University – Alice Isen. In a study of creativity, undergraduate students were divided into two groups. One group watched old TV comedies before being given a task, while the other group watched nothing before being given the same task. The task involved nailing a lit candle to a cardboard wall with a box of tacks. The group that watched the comedy shows was shown to be 3 times as likely to accomplish the task.
- Indiana University – Dolt Zillman. In a 22 year study, research showed humor can make the learning experience more pleasant. However, it must be tuned attuned to audience knowledge. It also showed that humor can be effectively used to enhance student attention, improve classroom environment and lower test anxieties.
- Johns Hopkins University – Ronald Berk. Through research Dr. Berk states that sharing a laugh helps students learn more. He states that to be effective, comedy must compliment, not distract from course material. This research was formally published in 2007 and in the book Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator.
- Johns Hopkins University Medical School. This study divided students taking a test into two groups. One group received a test with humorous instructions, while the other group received the exact same test, but without the humor. The group with the humorous instructions scored significantly higher than the other group.
- Middle Tennessee State. Two groups were given single sentences on the same topic. One sentence was humor, while the other was not. The students with the humorous sentence remembered the complete sentence and individual words better than the other group.
- National Research Council. Research shows students function more effectively when they feel respected and valued. Also they function poorly when disrespected and marginalized.
- NEA Journal – The Lighter Side of Laughter. Researchers believe that humor serves to arouse student interest and attention. This increase in turn motivates students and increases the likelihood they understand and retain information. Beware – students laugh for a number of reasons. They might be amused but they might be unsure of what is going on, they might be following what others are doing, or it might be laughing because they’re anxious and stressed.
- New Direction for School Development. Close relationships with teachers lead to higher levels of student engagement and achievement.
- Review of Educational Research – Osterman. Learning requires involvement and the best prediction of student effort and engagement in schooling is the relationships they have with a teacher.
- St. Norbert College – James Neuliep. The following are some comments from Neuliep about his study of high school teachers and the use of humor. “Between student and teacher there’s a status differential in the classroom. Humor can help both the student and teacher cross the bridge together. How high school teachers use humor showed that they most frequently employ it as a way of putting students at ease, as an attention getter, and as a way to show students that the teacher is human. Humor, used appropriately, can help reduce the psychological distance between teachers and students, while inappropriate humor increases distance. In other words, humor directed at a student in the form of ridicule, sarcasm, and joking references to ethnic, racial, and gender differences are out.”
- Sam Houston University. A study showed that students are more likely to recall lectures when it was interjected with jokes about relevant topics.
University of North Carolina – Barbara Fredrickson
In a study of the effects of laughter on creative thought, the following results were given.
- increased positive mental state
- increased open mindedness
- increased creativity
- increased capacity to adapt to change
- increased broad thinking
- recommends a 3 to 1 ratio of positive comments to negative comments
Therapeutic approaches to laughter such as Laughter Wellness and Laughter Yoga offer a physical exercise that works on the body and mind simultaneously. They boost systems that are switched off or disrupted by stress, especially the circulatory and digestive systems. They stimulate willingness to learn and retention improves creativity and self discipline. They provide tools to deal with stressful situations in new ways, providing an alternative to anger and aggression and resulting fear.
Take your interest further!
Discover Laughter Wellness, a complete system of methods (lifestyle medicine) that promotes physical, mental, emotional and social health and wellbeing through laughter and associated empowering techniques. Laughter Wellness is designed to lessen the illness impact and help normalize people’s lives.
About the author: Sebastien Gendry is the founder and CEO of the Laughter Online University as well as The Laughter Consultants, Inc., a business dedicated to helping those organizations who wish to boost moral and productivity, or reduce stress and costs. A leading global expert on Laughter Therapy, he helps individuals and businesses introduce and/or re-establish the energy of laughter in their lives and work for better health, wellbeing and peak performance. Sebastien has over 10 years of full-time experience in his field working with 1000s on four continents.