Cultural differences in humour and its effect on learning.

Cultural differences in humour and its effect on learning.

Humour is an important dynamic and aspect of human communication all over the world, it plays a pivotal role in shaping our experiences. Incorporating humour in communication can lighten a conversation, which makes it more engaging in many cases. When it comes to learning and education the positive effects of humour are also visible, as it can boost engagement in those spheres as well. Although humour is a universal phenomenon, there are many differences between cultures as shown in the following example. Why did the man bring a ladder to the bar? Because he heard the drinks were on the house! 

This is a joke that many English-speaking people would understand but someone, who is not a fluent speaker, might not. It shows how cultural differences in humour can cause a joke to go over someone's head. In this article, we will examine the differences between the Western and Eastern views on humour and how humour could be effective in learning. 

There are many differences between cultures in how and when humour is used, as well as what is considered funny. Distinctions in what people find funny can of course vary from person to person and from country to country, however, the most noticeable discrepancies can be seen between Western and Eastern cultures. Although Westerners and Easterners both have a positive relationship between humour and physiological well-being, there are nuances in the way they perceive and use humour. An example of this divide between Eastern and Western cultures is how humour is viewed as a trait. Humour in Western cultures humour is seen as an attractive and positive characteristic of someone. Moreover, according to research, humorous people are also viewed as more inspiring, imaginative, and competent. On the contrary, in eastern parts of the world, particularly China, humour is not valued as much as in the West. In China, this is partially due to an ancient Chinese belief system called Confucianism which stresses the importance of personal ethics and morality. This system also influences the way seriousness and restriction are emphasised, as a result, humour is devalued. Additionally, the Chinese are hesitant to admit that they are humorous out of fear for their social status. Another important difference is in the type of humour Westerners and Easterners use. In the West individuals are more likely to use maladaptive humour, which means that they make jokes that are more self-defeating and aggressive (making fun of others). On the contrary, in the East humour is more likely to be affiliative (telling jokes to laugh with others) and self-enhancing (finding humour in life's setbacks to lift one's spirits). It is interesting to mention that there are also differences which are created by political systems. In liberal societies, for example, it is more common to joke about the government and moral values. Whereas in more conservative societies, joking about traditions and ancestors is far less prevalent. 

Why is humour important for a company such as the 2B Collective which works with gamification e-learning? Due to several reasons. Humour can contribute to multiple factors which improve engagement, thus understanding how to implement it is extremely valuable. Firstly, humour can create a pleasant learning environment, which results in the feeling comfort and confidence. Humour can also lead to a level of physiological arousal, which could result in increased attention, therefore, it is likely to enhance performance. Additionally, humour in learning can improve a persons ability to recall information better. Research supports the effectiveness of humorous elements in learning, as evidence shows positive effects on students’ engagement, effort, participation, and ability to follow training. Research also shows that humour improves the ability to recall information, gives more direction during a lesson, and overall improves student’s motivation, attention and enjoyment. However, it also mentions that humour and learning elements should be balanced well to avoid distractions. Therefore, how should one go about implementing humour in their online training? The audience must be researched a bit to figure out the appropriate type of humour that can be implemented. Furthermore, humour in learning should never overshadow the core content of the subject because too many humorous elements might create a loss of credibility. Lastly, how humour is applied is also important. Good timing and a surprise element in gamification are valuable for optimal implementation. 

It is evident that humour is an extremely valuable element for learning and gamification -when implemented properly it can improve results. However, it is important to see the differences in the way people perceive and view humour to derive the most benefit. Many of these differences are between Eastern and Western cultures and are most prevalent in the way people joke with each other. The miss-match can be found in the type of humour people find most appealing. Although there are significant nuances in the matter, it is important to know that humour for everyone is a key contributor to happiness and psychological well-being. The key takeaway from this is that incorporating humour in any many types of communication can have a significantly positive effect. 

Gerelateerde artikelen

Stay informed!

Sign up for the newsletter and stay up to date with our community.


Mail us

Call us
+31 (0)180 22 22 23

© 2021 - The 2B Collective

On the use of our products and services, our terms and conditions and privacy statement apply.

We use cookies

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.