When we laugh uproariously are activated between 100 and 400 muscles. Laughing allows us to obtain the double of oxygen, a natural hyperventilation that favors all body processes. Laughter is also a powerful natural pain reliever, as it activates hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline, which produce a feeling of well being. In fact, laughter is also an excellent tool to fight depression, anxiety and stress.
Now psychologists at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense have found that a laugh is not only an excellent medicine for body and soul, but also facilitates learning. In fact, these researchers found that when children laugh learn better.
The most effective weapon to enhance learning
The researchers wondered what effect it could have the humor on children’s learning capacity. Thus, they worked with 53 children of 18 months of age, whose task was to learn how to use an object to reach an inaccessible toy. An adult showed them how to do it.
In a group, once reached the toy the adult simply played with it. In the other group the adult adopted a funnier attitude, doing amazing, unexpected or absurd gestures that made the children laugh.
Therefore, psychologists saw so that children who laughed imitated better the adult movements to reach the toy. In fact, the results left no doubt: 94% of the children who laughed were able to reach the toy, compared to only 25% of children who didn’t.
Laughing changes brain’s dynamic
The explanation may lie in the chemistry of our brains. Positive emotions, such as those generated by a laugh, increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter implicated in cognitive processes. In fact, we saw that the prefrontal cortex is very sensitive to small changes in dopamine levels.
At cellular level, dopamine influences the neurons in the prefrontal cortex improving the excitability of the same in the deeper layers, and this stimulates the learning as it facilitates an optimal adjustment of the cognitive processes. In fact, several studies have found that a dopamine deficiency affects significantly the working memory.
Laughing helps to focus the attention
Another interesting aspect of laughter is that it allows to catch the eye, so that children can learn better. In fact, a study conducted at the Sam Houston State University discovered that students reminded better what they had read when the teacher made jokes about the theme.
In the case of children, laughing while learning is even more important because it creates a more relaxed environment and relieves the stress. In fact, children should not perceive learning as an imposed and tedious task, but as a special time that allows them to open their minds, discover new worlds and have fun.
Unfortunately, most schools are still far from this pedagogical model.
Esseily, R. (2016) Humour production may enhance observational learning of a new tool-use action in 18-month-old infants. Cognition and Emotion; 30(4):817-825.
Garner, R. L. (2012) Humor in Pedagogy: How Ha-Ha can Lead to Aha! College Teaching; 54(1): 177-180.
Shohamy, D. & Adcock, R. A. (2010) Dopamine and adaptive memory. Trends Cogn Sci; 14(10): 464-472.
García, F. B. et. Al. (2005) Implicación de la dopamina en los procesos cognitivos del aprendizaje y la memoria. Psiquiatría Biológica; 12(6).