Social play is critical to the development of children’s social skills and emotional intelligence. Restricted play results in deficient social skills which can lead to life-long physical, mental, emotional and social problems. Laughter promotes childlike playful behavior. New research shows that playful adults continue to learn social skills and improve their emotional intelligence. Learning requires that one lower what linguists call the “affective barrier.”
This article reviews how laughter can help.
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 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.