If humor improves memory, then why it’s difficult to remember good jokes? Hmmm… But if it feels so good then what exactly does it help with?

So lettuce, haha I mean let us (damn autocorrect) clarify that humor improves the disposition to something, and that repetition (by usage) is more responsible for memorizing it. For instance, on a book about management here’s a brief comic strip we used to start a chapter:

5-Big-Plan1 5-Big-Plan2 5-Big-Plan3 5-Big-Plan4

Right after the image the book goes about how a personal plan linked to the organizational plan solves this types of situations…

The cartoon helped us set common ground with the reader, assuming that any recurrence of such event in their work could be solved by using a personal plan. Repetition of using a personal plan helps memorize the concept, and humor allowed us link this external learning to an internal dimension of the readers (Awesome Thesis By R. Fitzpatrick).

Humor builds a powerful the connection of something new to something known, immediately because you don’t prepare for it, it just happens. What we’re saying so far is that it’s more pleasurable for your brain to repeat knock knock jokes than country capitals… Humor makes it enjoyable and repetition (usage) makes it memorable. Then, how can this be done?

Mankind has come up many theories around humor, more than 10 on wikipedia. For our purpose of making information enjoyable ,we see three themes or strategies that you can focus on for different end results:

  • Relief: humor releases physical tension, endorphins and lowers brain waves frequency, so that we can overcome fears, inhibitions and suppressed emotions.
  • Empathy: humor in others misfortune can lead to feel empathy, sympathy or antipathy.
  • Incongruity: humor is an unexpected shift of perspective, by changing parts of the message most people don’t know how it’s going to banana, right?

We suggest you be clear about what purpose is humor serving for your message. If it’s incongruity you’re using but the audience is not familiar with the context, they may not have an expectation about the ending that you can play with… In which case they could feel awkward towards the message.

It's not enough to be unique, be useful too

It’s not enough to be unique, be useful too

If it’s empathy your focus for your message, be sure to look for a response that’s either sympathetic: reaching to someone’s situation, or antipathetic: opposing feelings to a situation. Just feeling empathy is not enough for a call-to-action if there’s no expected positive or negative reaction.

On doing surveys Vs observation techniques

On doing surveys Vs observation techniques

If it’s relief that you want your audience to feel, don’t demand an immediate call-to-action as there’s a process of assimilation before that. The first gate keeper here is overcoming a fear by connecting it to an external lever (aka humor).

Never Give UP!

Never Give UP!

So quick recap:

1.- Humor drives attention and repetition improves memory.

2.- Humor is immediate and internal. The message is external.

3.- Three forms of humor: relief, empathy and incongruity. Choose one that supports your message.

If you’d like to know more, here are some links:

Video: Bob Mankoff: Anatomy of a New Yorker cartoon

Video: How Humour Affects Learning

Article: Laughter and Learning: Humor Boosts Retention