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How Humor Stimulates Learning

Written by: Prakash Rao, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Prakash Rao

The fascinating interplay between humor, insight restructuring, creativity, and lateral thinking, as proposed by Edward de Bono, demonstrates a powerful undercurrent of potential in learning processes. When we laugh, when we are amused, we stimulate parts of our brain that connect disparate ideas and thoughts, encouraging the formulation of new and insightful perspectives. And as learners, we can take this understanding and apply it to our own learning processes, enabling an accelerated assimilation of information and enhanced problem-solving abilities. Here's how.

Woman holding broonm covering her mouth

When we engage in humor, we are essentially practicing a form of lateral thinking – the ability to perceive patterns that are not immediately apparent, to connect dots that seem unrelated at first glance. This cognitive skill is fundamental to creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. Consider the structure of a joke. A joke works by leading the listener down a path, only to reveal an unexpected twist or connection at the end – much like lateral thinking requires us to step away from the obvious path and consider alternative possibilities. It’s a form of mental acrobatics that can exercise and strengthen our capacity for creative problem-solving and adaptability. So, when we engage in humor, we’re not just enjoying a laugh; we’re flexing and developing our lateral thinking muscles. Try writing your own jokes about the subject you are studying, or find a funny comic or meme that involves a concept you're learning.

Similarly, humor can facilitate insight restructuring – the process of altering our understanding or interpretation of a situation or problem. What do you see in this image: A young lady or an old one? Often, to learn something new or solve a complex problem, we need to see it in a different way, to restructure our insight. In this sense, humor can be a powerful tool. By its nature, humor often involves a shift in perspective – it requires us to look at something familiar in a new, unexpected way. This is exactly what insight restructuring involves. So, next time you're grappling with a difficult concept, try to find the humor in it. Create a funny analogy or story about it. Not only will this make the learning process more enjoyable, but it could also help you understand the concept at a deeper level.

illustration of a person

Additionally, humor also induces a positive emotional state, which has been linked to increased creativity and better problem-solving abilities. The process of learning often involves overcoming challenges and solving problems. When we are in a positive emotional state, we are more likely to see these challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles. And humor is a great way to create this positive emotional state. So, as you navigate through your learning process, try to maintain a sense of humor. Laugh at your mistakes instead of getting frustrated. This positivity can foster an optimal mental environment for learning and growth.

puzzle pieces

Moreover, humor increases dopamine and serotonin in the brain, stimulating the pleasure and reward centers, and facilitating the learning process. Dopamine is linked to motivation and the experience of pleasure, and its release during learning activities can make the process more engaging and enjoyable. Serotonin, on the other hand, is associated with memory and learning. An increased level of serotonin can enhance the consolidation and recall of information. Thus, incorporating humor into your learning process could enhance not only your enjoyment of the process but also your ability to retain and recall the information.

In conclusion, humor isn't just for lightening the mood. It's a tool we can wield to improve our learning processes, to increase creativity and lateral thinking, and to stimulate the emotional and cognitive engagement that facilitates learning. Whether it's through creating funny mnemonics or analogies, laughing at our own mistakes, or seeking out humor in the subject matter, incorporating humor into our learning process can offer numerous benefits. By consciously applying humor as a tool for learning, we can cultivate a learning environment that is not only enjoyable but also highly effective.

Have fun. Really! It will help you become a better student.

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Prakash Rao Brainz Magazine

Prakash Rao, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Prakash Rao is learning skills guru. He transforms middle school and high school students into super learners. After a career in software development and consulting, Prakash pursued his interest in self development and helping children learn to learn. In this, he is following in his mother's footsteps – Dr. Indira S. Rao developed this methodology as part of her Ph.D. program with Prakash as the subject. Prakash is now the preeminent expert in Dr. Rao's methodology and has made it his mission to unlock children's learning potential and unleash the inner genius.



  • Garner, R. L. (2006). Humor in pedagogy: How ha-ha can lead to aha! College Teaching, 54(1), 177–180.

  • De Bono, E. (1970). Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step. Harper & Row.

  • Isen, A. M., Daubman, K. A., & Nowicki, G. P. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem-solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6), 1122–1131.

  • Ziv, A. (1988). Teaching and learning with humor: Experiment and replication. The Journal of Experimental Education, 57(1), 5–15.



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