Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Classroom Humor Sparks Creative Problem-Solving

In my recent article, The Case for Humor in the College Classroom, I wrote: As college professors nationwide prepare for a new academic year, my message for them is simple: Lighten up! Your students just might engage and learn.

Now, researchers on humor and thinking (not kidding, that's a field of study) at Northwestern University found that people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, having just seen a short comedy routine. “What we think is happening,” said Mark Beeman, a neuroscientist who conducted the study with Karuna Subramaniam, a graduate student, “is that the humor, this positive mood, is lowering the brain’s threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections” to solve puzzles. ...

In their humor study, Dr. Beeman and Dr. Subramaniam had college students solve word-association puzzles after watching a short video of a stand-up routine by Robin Williams. The students solved more of the puzzles over all, and significantly more by sudden insight, compared with when they’d seen a scary or boring video beforehand.

Continue reading Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving

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