einsteinIf at first you don’t succeed, don’t try skydiving.

What did 0 say to 8? Nice belt.

What do you call cheese that’s not yours? Nacho cheese.

What did Tennessee? The same thing as Arkansas.

How do you make fire with two sticks? Make sure one’s a match.

Why did the can-crusher quit his job? Because it was soda pressing.

Einstein was known to be very playful and full of laughter. Is it possible that Einstein just happened to have a well-developed sense of humor – which had no relation to the creative work which he did? Maybe. But there is a more likely explanation. According to brain researchers, three parts of the brain light up when you laugh at a joke. There is the thinking part that helps you get the joke, the area that controls the movements of your muscles, and an emotional area that makes you feel good.

Coming up with or understanding humor is basically the process of looking at things from different angles instead of the more logical way. There has been research since the 1950s documenting a close relationship between humor and creativity. People with a better sense of humor tend to be more creative.  Humor nurtures creativity by offering practice at stretching your thinking to make sense out of something. In jokes, for example, the punch line delivers the humor by obliging you to find some new unexpected meaning that is essential for the joke to make sense. So there is every reason to expect that you can generate more creative thinking in your children by promoting joking at home.

There is even evidence that you can boost scores on a standardized test of creativity by exposing people to humor or other conditions which establish a “playful atmosphere.”  For example, simply listening to a humorous recording increases scores on a subsequently given creativity test, and watching comedy films is enough to improve creative problem solving. So, go ahead and share your best “knock knock” jokes around the dinner table tonight – you’ll be promoting creative thinking while having fun doing it.

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