We all know that laughter is the best medicine, but a team of French scientists has discovered that using humor also appears to help toddlers learn new tasks, reports a new study in the journal Cognition and Emotion:
"Building on the knowledge that making older children laugh can enhance many aspects of cognition, Rana Esseily and her colleagues designed an experiment to see whether using humor could also have an effect on the ability of infants to learn.... When Esseily and her colleagues studied their data, they found that the children who laughed at the antics of the adults were able to repeat the action themselves more successfully than those who didn't laugh, as well as those who were included in the 'humorless' control group.
"Why laughter seems to be related to the toddlers' ability to learn isn't entirely clear, but Esseily and her team put forward two possible explanations. The first relates to temperament. In this case, it is not humor per se that may have facilitated learning, the authors suggest, but [that] temperamentally 'smiley' babies were more likely to engage with the environment and, therefore, to attempt and succeed at the task."
"The second explanation the authors put forward relates to brain chemistry. It is well known that positive emotions, like laughter or engaging well with an experimenter, can increase dopamine levels in the brain, which in turn has a positive effect on learning. Thus, the effect observed here might be a general effect due to positive emotion and not to humor or laughter per se."
by Alison Gopnik
In the last decade there has been a revolution in our understanding of the minds of infants and young children. We used to believe that babies were irrational, and that their thinking and experience were limited. Now Alison Gopnik — a leading psychologist and philosopher, as well as a mother — explains the cutting-edge scientific and psychological research that has revealed that babies learn more, create more, care more, and experience more than we could ever have imagined.
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Laughter and fun are byproducts of play. Luckily we adults have the privilege of being included in the wonderful sometimes humorous scene of an early childhood setting...but it needs to be led by the child, not the adult, in order for early development from birth to shape the self-aware, self-regulating body brain connection of infants and toddlers. www.rie.org
Laughter is a good thing for every age!