Humor Dissertation

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Laughter and humor in the classroom: Effects on test performance

Ruth Casper, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Although humor increases arousal and arousal enhances long-term memory, research supporting humor's positive effect on adult's memory is lacking. The present study proposed that laughter only—because of its arousing quality—would enhance long-term memory. However, humorous material containing a cognitive element would interfere with memory processes, thereby not producing long-term memory enhancement. Also, the literature suggests that need for cognition and attitude toward the to-be-learned material moderate humor's impact on long-term memory. Therefore, these factors were examined. ^ Two Introductory Psychology classes were exposed to four humor manipulations during a class lecture: humor that was relevant to the to-be-learned material, humor that was irrelevant to the to-be-learned material, laughter only, and no laughter. Both classes participated in each of the four conditions once. Students were then tested over the information presented in the Relevant and Irrelevant Humor conditions and later over the information presented in the Laughter and No Laughter conditions. Additionally, students completed measures of need for cognition and attitude toward the class on the first day of the study and a measure of arousal after each lecture. Analyses involved comparing the Relevant Humor condition to the Irrelevant Humor condition and the Laughter condition to the No Laughter condition. ^ The hypothesis that laughter enhances long-term memory was not supported; significant relationships between learning and arousal were not evidenced in any of the humor conditions. However, need for cognition predicted learning in all conditions. Women scored higher than males on test material that was presented with irrelevant humor. Males performed better on a test over material that was presented with laughter, and females performed better on a test over material that was presented with no laughter. Hypotheses regarding the moderating effects of need for cognition and attitude toward the to-be-learned material were not supported. ^ Implications of this study are discussed using theories regarding the relationship between humor and arousal. Among other suggestions, conscientiousness may explain the gender differences found in the relationship between type of humor and long-term memory. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Cognitive|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Casper, Ruth, "Laughter and humor in the classroom: Effects on test performance" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9936752.


Since April 22, 2005


Dear Dissertation-

I wanted to write a letter to you to let you know that I still love you. I feel like we’ve been drifting as of late, and I wanted to reaffirm our commitment.

We’ve been courting for a long time. Three years ago, when we started flirting, I didn’t have an idea as to where our relationship would take us. I knew a little bit about you, but it still wasn’t clear. Through learning together and researching each other, however, I feel like we’ve come to a good place. Our relationship is clearer in my mind now than it has ever been.

It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that you have overbearing parents. They will occasionally ask us to revise and resubmit our relationship for their approval, but I’ve learned that this will only make us stronger. It’s tough hearing feedback on something you hold so dear, but in the end we’ll hopefully arrive at a love we want to scream from the rooftops and publish everywhere.

I know I will ultimately need to ask your parents for your hand in marriage. I know I will still need to gain their approval before we reach our next step. But between then and now, there is still so much work to do. I get scared. Sometimes friends ask me how our relationship is and I just don’t’ want to talk about it. Part of it is out of embarrassment that perhaps we’re moving too slowly and the other part is perhaps our relationship needs more work.  I know these feelings are normal, but it doesn’t make them feel any different.

So I want to apologize for my shortcomings and let you know I’m still committed. We can do this! Perhaps if we commit to spending an hour together each day, we can work through these issues.  Bit by bit we’ll make this relationship work.  I don’t want you to think I have cold feet.  I don’t want to be like those other couples that stay engaged for years without ever actually getting married.  People refer to our relationship as an “all but…” but I like to think of it as an “all and…”  With this letter, I want to reaffirm my commitment to marrying you next year.  It will happen.  You’re a beautiful groom.

My dearest dissertation, our relationship is complicated, but please understand that our love, and my commitment to that love, is steadfast.


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07.24.14 in Humor, PhD Process. Tags: ABD, dissertation, doctoral, doctorate, graduate student, graduate study, humor, PhD


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