It’s pretty hard not to laugh or smile at the sight and sound of a baby laughing. Babies can find laughter in the simplicities of life. Not only can laughing be beneficial for them emotionally, but a new study has shown that a simple laugh can help them learn complex skills.
The study in Cognition and Emotion found that 94% of infants who “laughed at an adult performing a humorous demonstration involving a makeshift tool, mastered the action immediately or after a few tries.” This number is much larger than the 19% of infants who didn’t laugh at the same demonstration and the 25% of controls given a serious demonstration.
So, why can laughing be so beneficial? Laughter can trigger the release of dopamine and endorphins in the brain that are associated with pleasure. This in turn can impact learning, as the study suggests. This makes me wonder if the there is the same effect in adults? Rather than professors with monotonous voices, if classes were more fun and entertaining, would students retain more information presented in class? The article states that “humor has been shown to enhance attention and cognition in children and adults, but the effects on infants’ perception wasn’t known.” (Thus the reason for conducting the study.) Findings from this research could be from the positive interaction with the experimenter rather than the laughter – but both would release those positive mood hormones and have the same benefits, right? Just as a more fun and entertaining class may lead to learning from the laughter or the experience with the professor.