Emotions and Humor in Learning and Memory

For many students, attention may not be the roadblock learning, but rather remembering what's been learned once, twice, or dozens and dozens of time. When we see these kids in our clinic, more often than not, we don't find a child with a severe memory impairment; rather we see a boy or a girl who has a good memory for certain types of things and a bad memory other types of things.

Some children (and adults for that matter) do seem to be powerfully interest-driven, and if a subject is uninteresting or seems to have no intrinsic value, it seems impossible to retain.

General memory training activities may be of help, but using humor and emotional memory might be the make it or break it for getting information into long term memory.

On tests of sentence memory, researcher Stephen Schmidt found humorous sentences were much easier to remember on free and cued-recall tests (below, right).

And when memory for words in emotional neutral sentences was compared (figure above), words that tweaked  emotions were much better remembered than 'bland' words. With emotional word encoding, the right amygdala and hippocampus became activated too.

 Rote memory and auditory verbal memory are especially difficult for many children and adults with dyslexia, but tweaking subjects with humor or emotional content may suddenly turn an impossible-to-learn subject doable.

Some low-tech ideas: making up funny associations, cartoons, or word plays with places, names, or new technical vocabulary that has to be learned. Talking aloud notes with funny cartoon voices, reciting notes to a popular tune, or standing on a chair. Surprisingly all this stuff really works. One time we saw an older dyslexic who had had a horrendous time with letter and number reversals for years. We asked him, what helped the most? How did he finally get things straight? He grinned and answered, "I just found out that I had to give the letters and number different personalities... like "nasty number nine". If you the information somehow touches you personally, you'll remember it.

Humor on Sentence memory pdf
Emotional memory: separating content and context pdf
Memory Tricks at MindTools

1 comment:

  1. It's a really interesting approach, especially taking into consideration how kids can remember events which caused big emotional experience for years to come, even if they were really young when the event happened. If the learning process is more like a game, kids get excited and are likely to remember what they learned better. Great post!