Comedy-news shows such as those by Trevor Noah, John Oliver, and Samantha Bee on the rise and are especially popular among younger generations. But why? Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Ohio State University may have an answer. In new research, they found that delivering news in a humorous way makes it both more memorable and shareable.
For the study, the researchers recruited young adults aged between 18 and 34. Each was asked to watch a variety of news clips- some humorous and some not- while being monitored by an fMRI scanner. Afterward, participants partook in a memory test to uncover how much information they remembered from the clips, and were asked to report how likely they were to share the clips with other people.
All in all, the researchers found that more humorous news clips tended to produce more activity in areas of the brain linked to social engagement. They also found that participants were more likely to remember information from the news clips presented in a humorous way and that they were then more willing to share information from these with others.
“Our findings show that humor stimulates activity in brain regions associated with social engagement, improves memory for political facts, and increases the tendency to share political information with others,” says Jason Coronel, lead author of the paper.
“This is significant because entertainment-based media has become an important source of political news, especially for young adults. Our results suggest that humor can increase knowledge about politics.”
Senior author of the paper Emily Falk says, "For democracy to work, it is really important for people to engage with news and politics and to be informed about public affairs." As such, these results may have implications for how outlets choose to communicate with their audience- especially those who are younger.