This study suggests humor can distract people if it's unrelated to the theme of the discussion. It can increase learning if thematically related. The study ties learning (elaboration) to differences in people's Need for Humor.
What's Need for Humor? It's an individual difference, measured not unlike similar constructs like the time-tested Need for Cognition (how much ya like to think about stuff). The humor variable (NFH) is defined thusly:
‘‘Whereas individuals with high levels of NFH may be motivated to process the humorous information, relevant or not, those with low NFH are not likely to bother elaborating on humorous information.’’I love a good personality variable. Basically they find this:
- High NFH folks, thematically related humor helps them learn.
- Low NFH folks, thematically related humor hurts learning.