Laugh And Learn: A Sense Of Humor Helps Toddlers Learn Better

laughing
Previous studies have shown that laughter enhances a baby's cognitive ability, such as memory and attention; it turns out that this can happen at a very young age and improve their ability to learn new tasks. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Laughter has a positive influence over our emotional state and our health — and it turns out that endless giggles can help us learn and remember things, too.

In a new study, researchers examined how giggling helped toddlers learn. The participants were 53 infants who were about 18 months old, who were taught how to reach a toy duck with a cardboard rake. Half of the babies were given serious, non-humorous demonstrations of how to use the rake to bring the duck closer to them. The other half of toddlers were given funnier examples of how to accomplish the task — with the experimenter throwing the duck onto the floor and smiling afterward. In the funny group, 16 of the 35 toddlers laughed at the show.

Afterward, researchers measured how the babies replicated the task themselves. Almost all of the toddlers in the laughing group — 93.7 percent of them — used the rake properly to reach the duck. Only 25 percent in the serious group, meanwhile, used the rake, suggesting that a funny demonstration with smiles and laughter helped the babies learn.

Seeing how babies learn simple tasks while laughing can offer us deeper insights into how we as human adults learn while keeping things funny and lighthearted. It turns out that for adults, laughing while learning is also beneficial.

Previous research has shown that injecting humor into learning techniques helps students learn by making the material less intimidating, and more memorable. “When I enter the classroom, I want to change the entire atmosphere where everyone has fun with the material — even if the material is complex,” Ron Berk, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, told the American Psychological Association. “It helps relieve fear and reduce anxiety.” Next time you're learning something new, do it with a smile.

“Our results suggest that laughing might be a stimulant of learning even during the second year of life,” the researchers write. However, they note that further research is needed to solidify that claim — as they still have questions as to whether the children who laughed and succeeded at reaching the duck were simply more cognitively advanced in general. “Further work is clearly now required to elucidate the question of the mechanisms underlying this effect of laughter on infants’ learning,” the researchers write.

Source: Esseily R, Rat-Fischer L, Somogyi E, O’Regan K, Fagard J. Humour production may enhance observational learning of a new tool-use action in 18-month-old infants. Cognition & Emotion. 2015.

Loading...
Join the Discussion