The neuroscience of humor and education: A focus at AATH Conference

Staff Report

What kind of impact does humor have on learning? Educators who are interested in cognitive science research including both the theory and applications of humor will want to attend the 25th AATH (Annual Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor) conference in Chicago April 19-22.

AATH is a nonprofit, member-driven, international community of humor and laughter professionals and enthusiasts. Therapeutic humor is any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life’s situations.

Graduate college credit (3 hours) and/or a certificate of humor studies are available in a unique Humor Academy program offered at the AATH conference. The Humor Academy is an interactive, collaborative program with an inquiry-based format and research-based instruction. It includes an introductory session from author of Using Humor to Maximize Living, and international presenter, Mary Kay Morrison will share a session about the Fundamentals of Humor Therapy. Poster research sessions moderated by past AATH president Lenny Dave will include applications of humor on education and learning.

Educators will not want to miss the following sessions. Keynoter Dr. Willibald Ruch, professor of psychology from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, will explore the link between positive psychology and humor. Dr. Joyce Saltman, special education professor from the University of Connecticut, will keynote on the Enhancement of Learning through Humor.” Laugh and learn with Laura Young and Kay Caskey from Western Michigan University as they share their pioneering efforts to bring play to the classroom. Adrianne Roggenbuck will rejuvenate educators with a brain-focused session on 51 ways to engage all learners. Technology skills and applications will be shared in a session about how to create webinars with Jean Smith and Arlin Peebles, founders of Education Learning Network and leaders of the Illinois Principals Association.

CPDU credits for Illinois teachers will be available through the Boone/Winnebago Regional Office of Education. Three hours of graduate college credit through Portland State University Department of Education are available by attending the Humor Academy at the conference. A certificate program is also available. International speaker and author Mary Kay Morrison has developed this dynamic course based on the cognitive research of humor.

For more information or to register, go online at or call (888) 747-2284.

Interview with Mary Kay Morrison

The Rock River Times spoke with presenter Mary Kay Morrison, and she gave us some background on the organization.

TRRT: How did you become affiliated with AATH?

Morrison: It’s been around for a long time. We are a group of professionals who are interested in healthy humor. We’re composed mainly of people from all walks of life who are interested in using humor for well-being. We’re very evidently research-based. We look at the practical applications in a variety of fields. For instance, I teach Humor Academy for three hours for college credit. I use my book as a text. I started at the Regional Office of Education of Boone/Winnebago County. I started doing workshops for teachers on brain research, and I got really interested in positive psychology and how humor relieves stress. Our teachers were really impressed, so I started doing workshops for teachers, and went to the AATH conference in Chicago in 2003. They do a conference every year. That was my first introdution, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s a fun conference.

TRRT: How long has AATH been in existence? How was it formed?

Morrison: This is its 25th year. A nurse, Alison Crane, started it. She started working with therapeutic techniques in health care. This year I have students from Venezuela, Brazil, Australia, Canada and Mexico. My students come from all over the world, so it’s an international organization. We do theory and applications on healthy humor. Patch Adams was an original member. He was a doctor who used clown noses in the hospital to cheer up the patients. He did funny things and tried to make people laugh. We actually honored Norman Cousins a couple years ago. This year it is Steve Sultanoff.

TRRT: Explain CE credits and CPDU credits.

Morrison: Nurses, social workers and counselors need to get Continual Education credits. CPDU stand for Continued Professional Development Units; this is only in Illinois. Other states have other requirements. They [students] can get credits just for attending the conference, and it’s a four-day conference, April 19-22.

From the April 18-24, 2012, issue

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