How Laughter Increases Student’s Learning and Memory Retention

Dennise Heckman M.Ed.
3 min readSep 27, 2020

A student who comes to school happy, smiling and finds reason to laugh will learn more. A happy student will retain more information than a student who is stressed or tense. But, will all students always arrive at school happy with a smile on their face? This is certainly not guaranteed or even likely.

So, if happy students learn more, but students don’t arrive to school happy, what’s a teacher to do? Increase their happiness!

How can you make your students happy and laugh in order to increase their learning rate?

And, does smiling and laughing really help students’ learning and memory retention?

Let’s find out.

Why Laughter in Class?

Everyone knows a smile is contagious and most agree that laughter does lift people’s moods. It also seems that laughter can knock the tension right off a person’s face.

Why? Laughter has proven to stimulate a physiological effect that reduces the hormones caused by stress such as serum cortisol.

Studies have shown that smiling and laughter tend to increase the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that relieve pain and stress when they are stimulated.

Endorphins released also stimulate the frontal lobes of the brain and increases our attention span in the process. This is what teachers want during their lessons — attention.

Laughing is the number one easiest way to release endorphins.

After many studies, it has been found that students who laugh during the act of learning:

1. Concentrate more intensely,

2. Learn at a faster rate,

3. And retain lesson concepts more thoroughly than students not happy or able to laugh.

Many people agree that they more easily remember those people, things and ideas that made them laugh.

So, what about while teaching online?

A study by Ohio University psychology professors Mark Shatz and Frank LoSchiavo demonstrated that making use of humor in a virtual classroom can remarkably raise learners’ attentiveness and participation.

According to Mark Shatz, humor is a kind of social stimulant that can enhance interaction.

If you really want to be a great online teacher and genuinely help students, you would do best to find reasons to laugh yourself and increase the chances of your students laughing too. It is important to observe your students and figure out at what point they need a good laugh. Perhaps when that confused or stressed look crosses their face during a lesson.

The bottom line, when students are not stressed, they focus. And, focus increases a student’s learning capacity.

How Teachers Can Help

  1. Consider making use of humor to enhance classroom mood.

2. Choose humor that matches the topic of discussion and is age related.

3. Use humor to build a community of students in your class. This will create a positive ambience around your student and increase their learning.

4. Add jokes and music to your teaching.

5. For your virtual classroom, consider preparing a regular ‘welcome’ message with a mixture of smiling and laughter in it.

Laughter and smiling help students learn effectively and boost their memory retention.

As a teacher, when you find ways to smile and enjoy a good laugh with your students, you are perceived as approachable and caring. This encourages their attention during your class, thereby increasing their rate of learning whether in a virtual or in-person classroom setting.



Dennise Heckman M.Ed.

Dennise Heckman has been writing & editing since 1996. She majored in illustration at the Savannah College of Art & Design & holds a Master of Education Degree.