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The Effect of Humour and Mood on Memory Recall

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Abstract

The research presented here attempted to investigate the effect of humour on memory recall, while taking into consideration the mood of the participants. Participants were divided into two groups; neutral and dysphoric group. Both groups viewed humorous video clips which included displayed words and were asked to recall as many words from the videos. Findings showed that both groups had higher recall of words. Thus, the enhanced memory due to humour or humour effect can occur not only to individuals in a neutral mood, but also those in dysphoric mood. (C) 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
P r o c e d i a - S o c i a l a n d B e h a v i o r a l S c i e n c e s 9 7 ( 2 0 1 3 ) 2 5 2 2 5 7
1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under
CC BY-NC-ND license.
Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.230
ScienceDirect
The 9
t
h
I
nternational
C
onference on
C
o
g
nitive Scienc
e
Th
e
effect of humour and mood on memory recall
Tunku
S
araa-
Z
awyah Tunku Badli
,
Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifli*
Department of Psychology, International Islamic University Malaysia, Jalan Gombak, 53100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Abs
tra
ct
The research presented here attempted to investigate the effect of humour on memory recall, while taking into consideration the
ood of the participants. Parti
c
ipants were divided into two groups; neutral and dysphoric group.
B
oth groups viewed
hu
m
o
rous
v
i
deo
c
lips which included displayed words and were asked to recall as many words from the video
s
. Findings showed that
bo
th
g
roups had higher recall of words. Th
u
s,
t
he enhanced memory due to humour o
r
h
umour effect can occur not onl
y
to in
d
i
v
i
du
als
i
n a neutral mood, but also those in dysphoric mood.
© 2
0
13 Th
e
A
u
th
o
rs. Published b
y
El
sev
i
e
r Ltd.
Selection and/or pee
r
-
r
eview under responsibility of
t
h
e
U
niversiti Malaysia Sarawak
Keywords: Humour effect; dysphoric mood; memory recall; mood congruent memor
y
1. Intr
oduc
ti
o
n
The usage of humour is both common and diversified. Yet, this light-
h
earted subject has gained serious attention
among psychological
r
esearch. Among the most popular focus is on the psychological benefits of humour. Humour
h
as been found to be a means of moderating stress and depression. In addition, individuals who frequently use
h
umour are less likely to worr
y
[
1, 2
]
. Similarly, the
u
sage of humour by medical providers includes positive
benefits such as reducing embarrassment about awkward procedures, rapport building, as well as calming and
r
eassuring patients about medical procedures
[
3]. Humour has an additional benefit of having a positive effect on
m
emory. Education and advertising are two fields in particular which have benefited from this association. In a
n
o
therwise serious lecture, for example, humorous examples are remembered better than no
n
-
hu
m
o
r
ous o
n
es.
Th
e
advertising ind
u
stry spends vast amounts of money on producing humorous adverts, as research has shown that
[
4, 5
]
. However, the concept
o
f m
ood
-congruent memory dictates that an individ
positive moods elicit positive memories, and vice versa
[
6
]
. And since humour elicits positive feelings, it could be
assumed that only people in a positive mood state would encode or recall the ta
r
get event, for example, the
hu
m
o
r
ous
a
dve
rt
.
If the humour effect occurs when individuals are in a neutral mood
,
would the same occur fo
r
i
ndividuals in a dysphoric mood
?
The present study attempted to answer the question as to whether individuals in a
dysphoric mood benefit from the positive effects of humour on memory just as nondysphoric individual
s
.
I
f it i
s
found that recall is enhanced in dysphoric individuals, the implications could be seen in educational as well as
t
herapeutic settings.
*
Corresponding author. Tel.: +0-036-196-5143; fax: +0-036-196-5062.
E
-
mail add
r
ess
:
m
.adawiah@iium.edu.m
y
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
253
Tunku Saraa-Zawyah Tunku Badli and Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifl i / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 97 ( 2013 ) 252 – 257
1.1. Review of literature
Humour, and its accompanying laughter has psychological benefits. According to Garner [7], psychologically,
the effects of humour and laughter have been shown to reduce anxiety, decrease stress, enhance self-esteem, and
increase self-motivation. In education, humour is widely encouraged as a teaching tool and students show increased
participation and interest in classes where humour has been controlled and manipulated. [8] cites a classic study
conducted by Kaplan and Pascoe in 1977. They conducted an experiment to investigate how humour can affect
learning during a lecture. Two types of humour were used; first is humorous examples that were related to the
material covered during the lecture, and second is humour that was not related to the content of the lecture. The
results from that study showed that humour that was related to the lecture material was recalled better than the
nonrelated humour. That study demonstrated that humour can be an effective learning tool in the classroom, but
only when the humour is related to the material being taught.
It is often believed that emotional states can influence the way people remember, interpret, and evaluate events.
and memories match that mood state
[9]. According to Bower [10] positive moods bring about positive interpretations of events and pleasant thoughts
and memories. Negative moods, however, elicit negative interpretations, thoughts, and memories. Evidence exists to
support the effect of mood-congruency in various cognitive operations, including judgement, attention and
perception, as well as different types of recall and recognition procedures. This can be seen from studies that,
following the induction of a positive mood state, participants show greater memory for pleasant material, and
participants who underwent a negative mood induction procedure showed greater memory for unpleasant material
[11].
The focus of investigation in the present study is on whether the mood of the participants can influence their
memory recall. A group of participants was experimentally-induced to experience dysphoria using Velten Mood
Induction Procedure (VMIP). The other group was referred as neutral group or a group with the absence of the
VMIP. The humorous stimuli in this study were operationally defined as the humorous video clips that have been
rated as funny prior to the study. The dependent variable referred to the number of words a participant recalled in a
10 minute free recall task.
1.2. Ethical consideration
Particular ethical consideration was taken in this study because part of the experiment included inducing a
negative mood to the participants in the Dysphoria group. Prior to beginning the study, informed consent was
obtained from all participants. They were provided with information regarding the experimental procedures, the
expected duration, as well as the potential risk or harm of participating in the study, particularly for those who will
and they will be assured that any information or data obtained will be kept confidential. As a screening procedure,
the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) was administered to all participants. Any individual who obtains a
and Stress) will be excluded from the study. Participants were also required to indicate whether they are currently on
any anti-depressant medication. The reason for these screening procedures is because any individual who is already
depressed or anxious may have a severe reaction to the negative mood induction compared to others, and would not
procedure, positive mood induction statements were provided for them before they leave the study to counteract the
negative feelings they experienced during the experiment.
2. Method
2.1. Participants
87 undergraduate students (males = 17 and females = 70) participated in the study. They were all first and second
year Psychology students from the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, IIUM. The age
range was between 19 and 23 years old. These participants were not currently on medication for depression or
254 Tunku Saraa-Zawyah Tunku Badli and Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifl i / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 97 ( 2013 ) 252 – 257
anxiety disorders, or obtain a score on the DASS-21 held before the experiment. Informed
consent was obtained from the participants prior to the commencement of the study.
2.2. Stimuli
2.2.1. Humorous videos
Humorous videos consisted of 5 clips taken from comedy shows publicly available on the Internet. All clips were
in English, taken from a mixture of popular British and American television shows. The average length of each clip
is between two and three minutes. All clips were presented to the participants via a Powerpoint presentation. During
each clip, a total of five words were displayed in white, Albertus Medium font in the centre of the screen. These
words were chosen from the dialogue of the current scene, and were displayed every ten to twenty seconds,
depending on the length of the clip. These words served as the to-be recalled material at the end of the experiment.
All humorous material was rated prior to the experiment by a sample of students (not participating in the
experiments) on how funny (1=not at all funny to 5=very funny) each clip is. Only humorous materials rated 5 i.e.
very funny were selected to become the experimental stimuli.
2.2.2. Velten Mood Induction Procedure Statements (VMIPS)
The Velten mood-induction procedure was originally designed to be administered orally and individually to
participants [12]. Participants are asked to read each of 60 mood-related statements (on cards), first to themselves,
then aloud, at the rate of one card per 20 seconds. The statements begin rather neutrally and become progressively
more elated or depressed in content, depending on the particular induction which in the present study employed the
-induced dysphoria. However, in the present study,
a modified version of the VMIP statements was used [13]. This modified technique is used when administering to
large groups while maintaining the individual as the unit of analysis.
In the present study, all 60 statements were displayed one at a time on Powerpoint slides at a rate of one every 10
seconds. Each statement was displayed with black Calibri font, centred on a white background. Participants were
asked to read and focus on each statement silently. Instructions designed to facilitate incubation of the mood were
presented to the participants to read by themselves, and they were given three minutes to build on their sad mood.
According to [13], the incubation period is included to increase the duration of the induction as it can intensify the
experience of an affective state.
2.3. Procedure
Participants completed informed consent forms and were then given verbal instructions for the subsequent
experimental procedures. Part of this included explaining the response sheets that were to be completed. Participants
were also provided with an opportunity to ask questions or to clarify their role in the experiment. Once the
experiment began, all instructions were displayed as part of the Powerpoint presentation.
As a convenient sample was used, one group of participants was assigned as the Dysphoric Group (DG), and the
other as the Neutral Group (NG). Both groups underwent the same experimental procedure, except that the former
received a mood-induction procedure (MIP) based on the Velten Mood-Induction Procedure (VMIP) and the other
group did not. Prior to the mood-induction, participants were asked (via the presentation) to read each statement
carefully, to focus their attention on each of them, and try to internalize them as best they could. Each statement was
presented one at a time as part of a Powerpoint presentation at a rate of one every 10 seconds. The font chosen was
Calibri, size 24 in black on a white background to maximize visual clarity. This MIP lasted around 10 minutes. In
the mood-induction phase participants viewed the 60 statements. They were asked to concentrate and build upon
their induced sad mood, and that they were given three minutes to do so.
The mood-induction and subsequent incubation period was followed by the humorous video presentation.
Participants viewed a series of humorous video clips. During each clip, a total of five words (that were extracted
from the dialogue from that particular clip), were displayed one at a time, and participants were asked to pay
attention to these words. The rate at which each word appeared depended on the length of the clip, but it was
255
Tunku Saraa-Zawyah Tunku Badli and Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifl i / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 97 ( 2013 ) 252 – 257
designed so that the timing of each word was evenly spaced throughout the clip. For example, during a two minute
clip, a word would appear every 20 seconds. Each word was displayed for two seconds and this timing was held
constant throughout all the clips. All words were centred in white Alberta Medium font. The words were intended to
be large enough to be seen clearly, but not too large as to completely distract from the scene in the clip.
The final part of the experiment was the free recall phase. During this phase, participants were given 10 minutes
to list down as many of the displayed words as they could recall in any order. Lastly, participants in the Dysphoric
group were given a positive mood-induction, using the same method but with positive statements, before completing
the experiment.
3. Result
Following the mood induction procedure, a decrease in mood rating was predicted in the Dysphoric group. Table
1 shows the mean mood rating between the Dysphoric group (M = 4.267) and the Neutral group (M = 6.024). As
expected, the Neutral group had a significantly higher mean mood rating than the Dysphoric group, t(85) = 5.974, p
< .001.
Table 1: Means and Standard Deviations for Mood Rating between Groups
Group
N
Mean
SD
Neutral
42
6.024
1.240
Dysphoria
45
4.267
1.483
Table 2 shows the means and standard deviations of the number of words recalled by the Neutral and Dysphoric
groups. The analysis showed that participants in the Dysphoric group recalled a lower number of words than
participants in the Neutral group but the difference between the two groups was not significant, t(85) = 1.391, p >
0.05.
Table 2: Means and Standard Deviations of Number of Words Recalled from humorous video
Video
Mood
Mean
SD
N
Humorous
Neutral
13.429
4.748
42
Dysphoria
12.067
4.382
45
4. Discussion
The usage of humour in everyday life is quite varied. Humour can be utilised in educational settings,
advertisements, as well as a tool to ease awkward social interactions (e.g. [7]; [14]; [15]. A number of studies (e.g.
[16]; [8] provide support for the phenomenon known as the humour effect [5]; [9]. In other words, that humorous
material is recalled better than non-humorous material. Mood can also influence memory [10], such that we are
more likely to remember events and material that matches our current mood. Positive moods should facilitate the
recall of positive information, and negative moods should facilitate the recall of negative information
.
Consequently, it could be assumed that individuals in a negative mood would recall less humorous material than
individuals in a neutral mood because the humorous material would not be congruent with their mood. The findings
in the present study showed that both groups were able to recall humorous material and their ability to recall did not
differ significantly. Thus it can be interpreted that participants in both groups experienced the positive effect of
humour on memory. In other words, humour does enhance the memory of words and this can be seen not only
among individuals in a neutral mood, but also those in a dysphoric mood. Thus, it can be said that it was the
funniness, or humour per se of the clips that resulted in the positive effect on memory especially on the dysphoric
group. Future study should examine what other aspect of humour could contribute to its effect, or what specific type
of humour plays a role in its advantageous recall. It can also be investigated whether there is any gender differences
in the perception and appreciation of humour, and how that may affect the recall of humorous material. In the
256 Tunku Saraa-Zawyah Tunku Badli and Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifl i / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 97 ( 2013 ) 252 – 257
present study, mood was measured only before the presentation of the humorous material. Perhaps future
their mood increased as a result of being exposed to humour, and whether that may contribute to the humour effect
on memory. The generalizability of the findings in the present study is however limited as the dysphoric mood state
was experimentally induced, and it remains to be seen if the humour effect occurs among naturally dysphoric or
clinically depressed patients too. In relation to this, an interesting study by Antikainen, Hanninen, Honkalompi,
Hintikka, Koivumaa-Honkanen, Tanskanen, and Viinamaki [18] deserves mention. They investigated the
relationship between mood and memory complaints in depressed patients. The patients received either
antidepressive medication or psychotherapy in order to improve their mood. After a 6-month follow-up, it was
t improvement was associated with a decrease of memory complaints.
Thus, future research could investigate whether humour in some form could be used as a part of a treatment to
roblems. For example, patients could
be encouraged to read their favourite comics or watch comedy programmes as part of homework tasks assigned by
memory
abilities, and once their mood has improved along with the help of other treatments, the therapist can help patients in
recalling other important information in their lives.
5. Conclusion
The present study investigated the positive effect of humour on memory by comparing recall of words from
humorous video in groups that have different mood. Both groups did not differ in the number of words recalled. In
conclusion, the humour effect can occur not only in individuls in a neutral mood, but also those in a dysphoric
mood.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank students of Bachelor of Human Sciences (Psychology) of IIUM who have
participated in the experiments. The authors also thanked the reviewers of this article for their valuable comments
and suggestions.
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... Ningrum Baha Lathifah, Amir Hasan Ramli, and Faizah have also researched the relationship of humorous impressions to short-term memory in new students, where they researched Brawijaya University Psychology students in 2015 involving 50 participants with a significant value of 0.001 which is smaller than 0.05, this indicates that there is an effect of humorous impressions on memory abilities. This study proves that there is an effect of humor on memory enhancement [1,2,8,9]. ...
... Based on the results of this study, it can be concluded that the results obtained by researchers have similarities with the results of previous studies that have been conducted by students at Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences Malaysia, where a significant value was obtained, namely with a p-value of 0.001. Other research was conducted by Ningrum Baha Lathifah, Amir Hasan Ramli, and Faizah, where they researched Brawijaya University Psychology students in 2015 with a significant value of 0.001 [1,8]. ...
... Si bien este tipo de análisis sigue siendo una tendencia, la mayoría de las investigaciones develan el esfuerzo por intentar desentrañar de qué manera creativos y publicistas, con el uso de recursos como el humor logran generar estímulos, despertar emociones, aumentar la recordación y modificar actitudes y comportamientos hacia una marca, en otras palabras, se intenta explicar por qué el humor sigue siendo una herramienta poderosa en publicidad, ya que se considera además que el mensaje humorístico es una de las más importantes formas de comunicación humana (Chan, 2011;2011a), un destacado recurso publicitario para lograr el reconocimiento de la marca (Einsend, 2017) y, adecuadamente empleado, posibilita un mayor involucramiento con el consumidor y la preferencia hacia la marca (Salazar, 2005) y, puede ser un elemento asociado a la recordación (Badli & Dzulkifli, 2013). A este respecto, se advierte que, el nivel de percepción sobre el humor difiere en las audiencias, contextos y situaciones, donde además se puede ver afectado por la experiencia y el estado de ánimo (Blanco, 2006). ...
... The researcher found participants recall humorous photographs, keywords, and phrases more than the inspirational group. Similarly, Badli and Dzulkifli (2013) investigated the impact of humour on memory recall by showing participants funny video clips with words. They found that humour improved memory recalls in both neutral and dysphoric moods. ...
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Describes experiments in which happy or sad moods were induced in Ss by hypnotic suggestion to investigate the influence of emotions on memory and thinking. Results show that (a) Ss exhibited mood-state-dependent memory in recall of word lists, personal experiences recorded in a daily diary, and childhood experiences; (b) Ss recalled a greater percentage of those experiences that were affectively congruent with the mood they were in during recall; (c) emotion powerfully influenced such cognitive processes as free associations, imaginative fantasies, social perceptions, and snap judgments about others' personalities; (d) when the feeling-tone of a narrative agreed with the reader's emotion, the salience and memorability of events in that narrative were increased. An associative network theory is proposed to account for these results. In this theory, an emotion serves as a memory unit that can enter into associations with coincident events. Activation of this emotion unit aids retrieval of events associated with it; it also primes emotional themata for use in free association, fantasies, and perceptual categorization.
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Describes experiments in which happy or sad moods were induced in Ss by hypnotic suggestion to investigate the influence of emotions on memory and thinking. Results show that (a) Ss exhibited mood-state-dependent memory in recall of word lists, personal experiences recorded in a daily diary, and childhood experiences; (b) Ss recalled a greater percentage of those experiences that were affectively congruent with the mood they were in during recall; (c) emotion powerfully influenced such cognitive processes as free associations, imaginative fantasies, social perceptions, and snap judgments about others' personalities; (d) when the feeling-tone of a narrative agreed with the reader's emotion, the salience and memorability of events in that narrative were increased. An associative network theory is proposed to account for these results. In this theory, an emotion serves as a memory unit that can enter into associations with coincident events. Activation of this emotion unit aids retrieval of events associated with it; it also primes emotional themata for use in free association, fantasies, and perceptual categorization. (54 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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