A colleague who has read some of my posts and seen previews of those upcoming, considering the audience could include future employers, clients and peers, questioned the appropriateness of using feeds of The Simpsons, Futurama, Dilbert, etc. There is a point I would like to address which I feel would both explain and justify this, should there be any question.

In one of the courses I have recently taken, the professor used a conversation from an episode of South Park to explain a relevant theory. The same professor uses some clips of various animated programs in his undergraduate classes. His justification, for what some considered inappropriate for a PhD level seminar, was “you have to find inspiration where you can.” Despite criticism, classes on The Psychology of the Simpsons and the literature of Harry Potter have been relatively popular. Often in both my research and real world experience I find situation where I’m saying to myself, “you know, this reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where … I should probably do the exact opposite of what Homer does.” So there is some applicable relevance despite the criticism.

In addition, I try to inject some humor to what is otherwise a serious theory and conversation. There is a growing body of research indicating that humor can improve learning situations, particularly when the subject matter can become dry and boring.

Teachers must be creative because of the critical role they play in creating an environment conducive to optimal student learning. Humor is often identified as a teaching technique for developing a positive learning environment (Ferguson & Campinha-Bacote, 1989; Hill, 1988; Schwarz, 1989; Warnock, 1989; Walter, 1990). When an instructor establishes a supportive social climate, students are more likely to be receptive to learning. Humor is a catalyst for classroom “magic,” when all the educational elements converge and teacher and student are both positive and excited about learning. Instructors can foster classroom “magic” through improved communication with students by possessing a playful attitude and a willingness to use appropriate humor (Duffy & Jones, 1995).

Not only does humor aid in learning but it is also a positive aspect for your personal health. So far have we strayed from this notion that we have consultants who train people in laugh therapy. So the final word, if you have made it this far; if you believe “using cartoons is inappropriate for instructional purposes and consulting” try not to take things so serious, you will live longer and you might just learn something.