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The Science & Research Prove It

What we know from a great deal of research is that humor and laughter:

• Have positive biological and physiological effects.
• Are universal (even animals laugh).
• Enhance positive connections and interactions.
• Create safe spaces for conversation, even challenging ones.
• Provide motivation.
• Boost morale.
• Increase innovation and creativity.
• Empower individuals and teams.

So, why wouldn’t we bring humor and laughter into our lives, teams, organizations, workplace and leadership?

A Look at the Research and Science Behind the Power of Humor and Laughter

Below are some articles and research findings that document how humor and laughter benefit us as human beings as well as organizations and leaders. We take a look at the basic science on how humor and laughter in teams, leadership, and life do all of the above. Read on and you will see, there is no doubt! We need to laugh with, and at, ourselves, with others, at work and at home, and as part of our daily lives. We will be happier, healthier, more productive people, teams and organizations for it!

The Science Behind What Makes Us Laugh
Fabian van den Berg, Neuropsychologist, Forbes 2017

“Regardless of the joke-type, the brain responds to humor. Humor is when we expect one thing and then something else happens, when our scripts are broken in a non-threatening way.”

Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke
Mayo Clinic Staff

“Whether you’re guffawing at a sitcom on TV or quietly giggling at a newspaper cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke. A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.”


Why Use Humor as a Leader?


“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

Leading with Humor
Alison Beard, Harvard Business Review

“The workplace needs laughter. According to research from institutions as serious as Wharton, MIT, and London Business School, every chuckle or guffaw brings with it a host of business benefits. Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.”

Why Funny Leaders Are Better Leaders, According to 2 Stanford Professors
Leign Buchanan, Inc.

“In fact, humor is among a leader’s most effective tools. Use it well, and employees will both respect and like you more.”

Humor and Laughter in the Workplace for Connection and Team Building

30 Benefits of Humor at Work
Humor that Works

“…with that in mind, here are Humor That Works’ 30 Benefits of using Humor at Work, backed by academic research, business psychology case studies, and real world examples. We organized the 30 humor work benefits into the 6 core aspects of work – Execution, Thinking, Communication, Connection, Leadership and Health.


“Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.”
~ John Cleese

10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key to Success At Work
Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes 2013

“Some companies are tapping into… “the humor advantage.’” “Kerr says dozens of surveys suggest that humor can be at least one of the keys to success. A Robert Half International survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.”

Team Building Humor Strengthens a Team Identity or Spirit
Paul McGhee, PhD,

“Humor is a powerful tool in building more cohesive groups. And this is important, because cohesive groups work together better in pursuing common goals—especially in situations where there are expectations for high performance. Managers in a variety of work settings who initiate humor have been shown to be more likely to become an integral part of a socially cohesive group. Status differences with other team members are also minimized by humor. So joking or other forms of humor clearly provide an effective way of breaking down barriers if a manager wants to do so.”

Here’s why Humor at Workplace is a Key to Effective Team Building
Shaf Younus, PG Scholar at University of Liverpool

“Hewitt & Associates i.e. American human capital and management consulting service provider claims that companies which engage employees to induce happiness financially outperform other companies
by 19%.”

“It’s important to abide by professional ethics in workplace, but humor has its own importance in the corporate world. There are several convincing reasons that why sensible use of workplace humor can increase employee’s productivity and make your office a fun place to work. A research conducted on 275,000 professionals concluded that higher level of employee happiness resulted into lower turnover rates, higher sales and higher productivity at work.”

Humor and Diversity and Inclusion


“If you don’t believe in same sex marriage, then don’t marry somebody of the same sex.”
~ Wanda Sykes

Comic Diplomacy: Breaking Down Barriers One Laugh at a Time
Center for Media & Social Impact
Comedian Kamau Bell discusses humor and braking racial barriers (United Shades of America)

“If you have someone laughing, you have them paying attention.”

“Comedy doesn’t care about political affiliations, and comedy doesn’t belong to a political party. I admire the work of people like Dick Gregory, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Chris Rock. They operate from the top to the bottom intellectually: You always feel like you’re learning something, but you’re laughing at the same time…Laughter is a great equalizer that way. It brings us closer together, without us even realizing it.”

Humor and Laughter: Innovation and Creativity

The Power of Humor in Ideation and Creativity
Moses Ma, Psychology Today

“The hallmark of a really effective brainstorming is an abundance of genuine and heartfelt laughter. There’s a reason for this: Laughter can help people solve problems that demand creative solutions, by making it easier to think more broadly and associate ideas/relationships more freely. Recent research shows that people in a lighter mood experience more eureka! moments and greater inspiration.”


“At the height of laughter the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.”
~ Jean Housten

Using Humor to Boost Creativity
Paul McGhee, PhD

“Both humor and other forms of creative thinking involve a shift away from the usual way of looking at things. More creative individuals see meaningful connections between ideas or events that others can see when they’re pointed out, but have difficulty coming up with on their own. Humor primes the pump and gets the creative juices flowing.”

“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, M.D. (Nobel prize winner)

Why Humor Makes You More Creative
Fast Company

“At the height of laughter the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.”
Jean Housten

“As consultant Michael Kerr tells Forbes, Humor often reveals the authentic person lurking under the professional mask.’”

“It makes sense: A growing body of research shows that when you share a laugh with someone, you’re mirroring not only one another’s body language, but also the hormonal and neuronal activity, prompting a mutual investment in each other’s well-being. That’s a bond of kindness – and you’ll need acts of kindness to make it in any career.”


“A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more
dark clouds than any other thing.”
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Humor in Adversity
Op-Ed: As a doctor on ‘MASH,’ Hawkeye showed me how to get through this war on the coronavirus
Jillian Horton

“So why would someone make a comedy about it? The answer comes to me as my kids and I watch “MASH” in the TV’s flickering light, safe in our cabin, the shells falling somewhere else right now. Humor is just shorthand for hope, a gamble we’ll live long enough to hear the punchline, whether in the face of hardship or the pathologic indifference to suffering that sows the seeds for war in the first place. And in a war of ideology, humor correlates to the most important thing of all: resistance.”

“That’s my blueprint for survival, the one Hawkeye taught me so many years ago. Be brave. Be kind. Be funny, because humor shines a powerful light on hypocrisy and absurdity while reminding us we are tough, and still alive.”

Humor in the Time of COVID-19
Michele Wojciechowski with Paula Poundstone

Experts, like Paula Poundstone, say jokes are okay when times are rough.

“Humor might be all we have to pull us out of the darkness,” says Stephanie Newman, psychologist and author of “Barbarians at the PTA.” She (Paula) adds: “It brings perspective and distance from the dread
and gloom.”

“’The reality is that people need humor all the time. Humor, and the laughter it inspires, is our builtin mechanism for managing stress. It provides relief when times are tough, improves our mood and helps the mind and body calm down,’” says Brian King, psychologist, public speaker, comedian, and author of “The Art of Taking it Easy: How to Cope with Bears, Traffic, and the Rest of Life’s Stressors.”