Humor and Emotions Can Benefit Memory

Fact is, people remember better if a subject is presented with humor, or if they are impacted with some type of emotion. The funnier the joke, the more activity there is in your brain’s pleasure centers. The more the person can relate to something on a personal level the easier it is for them to remember it longer.

While there have been other studies conducted on humor and memory, Valparaiso University psychology professor Dr. Kieth Carlson decided to spice up his class by having them delve into how humor affects memory, and mix it up a bit by adding variables, like emotion, to the equation.

“In the real world there are other factors affecting memory that can’t be controlled,” he said, for example, “Ads that are too funny are often remembered more for being funny than for promoting a particular product.” If the advertiser wants his money to be spent effectively the humor needs to be closely linked to the product they are promoting, like the GEICO gecko commercials.

The connections between humor and memory are not only important to advertisers, but also to teachers, politicians and in many other areas. “Understanding memory is essential because who are we without our memories?” said Carlson. “We know that there are areas of the brain that are more active when you experience emotion, and these same areas of the brain appear to be active when someone perceives humor,” he said. “Subjective ratings of humor also are related to the level of brain activity in these areas, which suggests a possible link between humor and emotion.

“The work of other scientists has shown that the brain is making some pretty sophisticated distinctions between humorous and non-humorous materials right at the moment when it experiences humor. It doesn’t seem to make sense for the brain to have these patterns of activity if there were no link between emotion and the memory advantage for humor.”

A funny thing happens to your brain when you hear a joke…. Specific neurons “light up” as you begin to laugh!

According to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a team of researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 12 healthy volunteers. The object was to compare what goes on in the brain when they hear something funny.

The study showed the reward center of the brain was much more active when responding to jokes and puns than everyday language, and the funnier the joke the greater the MRI response. They also found that puns elicited more activity than regular jokes — like “Have you ever seen an elephant in a tree? Hides pretty well, doesn’t he? involves language processing more than just jokes that didn’t use wordplay. Words that had more than one meaning (double entendres) also showed more fMRI response.

Such studies help scientists gain further insight into how the brain works. Dr. Carlson went on to say that although humor does help the brain to remember, professors shouldn’t start telling jokes in the hopes their students will retain more of a lecture.

This is Ron White, memory training expert, memory keynote speaker and two-time USA Memory Champion. I am hoping you enjoyed my sharing this information about the connection between humor and memory.

Memory Training

Sources: — Some Jokes Activate The Brain’s Reward Center More Than Others:

Valparaso University — Humor a Boost to Memory, Study Shows:

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