When we laugh out loud, 100 to 400 muscles are activated. By laughing we get twice as much oxygen, a natural hyperventilation that benefits all the body’s processes. Laughter is also a powerful natural pain reliever, activating hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline, which produce a pleasant feeling of well-being. In fact, laughter is also an excellent tool to combat depression, anxiety and stress.
Now psychologists from the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense have discovered that laughter is not only an excellent medicine for the body and soul, but it also facilitates learning. These researchers have observed that when children laugh, they learn better.
The most effective weapon to enhance learning
The researchers wondered what effect humor use would have on children’s learning ability. Thus, they worked with 53 children of 18 months, whose task was to learn to use an object to reach an inaccessible toy. An adult showed them how to do it.
In one group, once the adult reached for the toy, they simply simply played with it. However, in the other group the adult adopted a more sympathetic attitude, doing incongruous, unexpected or absurd things that made the children laugh.
The psychologists appreciated that the little ones who had laughed were able to better imitate the movements of the adult to reach the toy. In fact, the results leave no room for doubt: 94% of the children who laughed were able to reach for the toy. However, only 25% of the little ones who did not laugh imitated the adult to reach for the toy.
Laughter changes brain dynamics
The explanation could be found in the chemistry of our brain. Positive emotions, such as those generated by laughter, increase levels of dopamine at the brain level, a neurotransmitter involved in cognitive processes. In fact, it has been appreciated that the prefrontal cortex is very sensitive to small changes in dopamine levels.
At the cellular level, dopamine fundamentally influences neurons in the prefrontal cortex, enhancing their excitability in the deeper layers, which stimulates learning as it facilitates optimal regulation of cognitive processes. In fact, different studies have found that a dopamine deficiency considerably affects working memory.
Laughter focuses attention
Another interesting aspect of laughter is that it helps to capture attention so that children can learn better. In fact, a study done at Sam Houston State University found that students remembered the data mentioned in a reading better when the teacher included jokes related to the topic.
In the case of children, laughter during learning is even more important because it creates a more relaxed environment and relieves stress. In fact, children should not view learning as a boring and imposed task, but as a special moment that allows them to open their minds, discover new universes, and have fun.
Unfortunately, most schools are still a long way from that pedagogical model 🙁