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THE SCIENCE OF PERSUASION

The Humour Effect: Unleashing the Power of Laughter for Memory, Well-being and Advertising Success

Written by Mélissa Amrioui

Humour is a powerful tool that can influence memory, mental health and even the way we perceive the world around us. The phenomenon referred to as the humour effect is a cognitive bias that causes people to remember information better when it is funny or humorous. In addition to improving memory, humour has numerous positive effects on our physical and emotional well-being, such as heart rate, task persistence and mood.


The Humour Effect and Mental Health

For centuries, philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle have been trying to understand the nature of humour. Today, we have a better understanding of how humour affects mental health and well-being. Here are several ways that humour has a positive impact on our psychological state:


  1. Release of Endorphins: Laughter triggered by humour releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals that promote happiness and reduce stress. These endorphins can have a significant impact on our overall well-being.

  2. Coping Mechanism: Humor acts as a coping mechanism, helping us navigate difficult situations and alleviate emotional distress. It allows us to discover a sense of ease in challenging circumstances, providing emotional release.

  3. Social Connections: Sharing humorous experiences and jokes strengthens social connections and fosters a sense of belonging, which is crucial for mental well-being. It brings people together and creates a positive social environment.

  4. Perspective Shift: Humor encourages a shift in perspective, allowing us to reframe negative thoughts and enhance resilience and adaptive coping strategies. It helps us see situations from a different angle and find new ways to approach them.

  5. Optimistic Outlook: Incorporating humour into our daily lives promotes a more lighthearted and optimistic outlook. This optimistic mindset reduces the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.


Laughter is the best medicine

As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. It has a wide range of short-term and long-term benefits for both our physical and emotional well-being. Let’s take a closer look:


Short-term benefits

  1. Organ stimulation: A good laugh improves the intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulating vital organs like the heart, lungs, and muscles.

  2. Stress relief: Laughing activates your body’s stress response mechanism. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation for up to 45 minutes after.

  3. Relief from tension: Laughter stimulates rapid blood circulation, resulting in a calming sensation that relieves tension.

Long-term benefits

  1. Boost to the immune system: Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by increasing stress and decreasing immunity. Conversely, positive thoughts and laughter can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.

  2. Pain relief: A good laugh causes your body to release natural painkillers, providing relief from physical pain.

  3. Positivity and mood improvement: Laughter significantly lifts our spirits by reducing anxiety and depression, making us happier.


Incorporating laughter and humour into our lives can lead to increased creativity and opportunities for shared joys with others. Laughter brings us to a higher place where we view the world from a more relaxed, positive, and joyful perspective.


How is the Humour Effect used in advertising?

Since humour has such a beneficial impact on personal well-being; it has also been picked up as a common advertising strategy. Advertisers often employ humour in various ways to make their content more memorable and engaging. Let’s explore how the humour effect is utilized in advertising:


Surprise:

Humour often involves unexpected or incongruous elements, that catch people off guard and pique their curiosity. When something unexpected happens or a punchline takes a surprising twist, it activates the brain's reward system, making us pay closer attention.


Emotional engagement:

Humor is inherently linked to positive emotions like amusement and joy. When we encounter something funny, our emotional response enhances our engagement with the content. Positive emotions associated with humour create a receptive mindset, making us more attentive and receptive to the message being conveyed.


Cognitive stimulation:

Understanding humour typically requires some degree of mental agility and cognitive processing. Decoding jokes or irony stimulates the brain, keeping us mentally active and attentive. When we encounter humour, our brains actively work to decode the intended meaning, leading to increased focus and attention.


Memorability:

Humour is memorable. Funny content tends to stick in our minds more readily than information presented in a dry or serious manner. The emotional response and cognitive engagement associated with humour contribute to increased memorability. As a result, humorous content can leave a lasting impression, leading to better recall and retention of the presented information.


Case Study: Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” Campaign


A prime example of effective humour in advertising is the "Ship My Pants" ad campaign by the American retail giant Kmart. Launched in 2013, the campaign aimed to promote Kmart's online shopping and shipping services in a humorous and attention-grabbing way.


The ad featured a play on words, where the phrase "ship my pants" sounded like mild profanity but was referring to the ability to have items shipped directly to customers' homes from Kmart's website. The humour in the ad came from the unexpected and slightly edgy twist on a common phrase. Using this “sound-like” approach, Kmart repeated this message in a way that was both memorable and not overly intrusive, leaving a lasting impact on viewers.


To conclude, humour has a profound impact on our mental health and well-being. It enhances memory, reduces stress, fosters social connections and promotes a positive outlook. Furthermore, in the realm of advertising, humour makes content more memorable and engaging. By leveraging surprise, emotional engagement, cognitive stimulation and memorability, advertisers can create campaigns that leave a lasting impression on viewers. So, embrace the power of laughter and humour in your daily life for a happier and healthier mindset.


References and further reading:

  1. Badli, T. S.-Z., & Dzulkifli, M. A. (2013). The effect of humour and mood on memory recall. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 97, 252–257. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.230

  2. Gerlach, A. (2022). Humor effect: The benefits of using humor. Retrieved from https://neurofied.com/humor-effect-the-benefits-of-using-humor/

  3. Heather S. Lonczak, Ph. D. (2023). Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/humor-psychology/






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