Dr. Shawn R. Tucker
At Elon, we have a class that all first year students take called “The Global Experience.” The course trains students to be good global citizens by encouraging them to understand, among other things, the plight of disempowered people, the nature of culture, the relationship of humans and the natural world, and the importance of personal responsibility. Students are challenged to view everything “quite differently from the ordinary method,” to use Kant’s phrase. Students read and watch and examine items that present new ideas and data, often throwing off their currently held ideas and views.
I saw a connection between this class and Kant’s ideas about humour as a talent for being able to voluntarily put oneself into this mental disposition. The common term for the pedagogical experience is cognitive conflict. This led me to these central research questions: can laughter help students cope with cognitive conflict? Can the delightful incongruence of laughter help students appreciate the not-so-delightful experience of cognitive conflict? Could students transfer humour’s ability to see opposites to the experience of finding new ideas and data?