Sabahan (I’m not sure of other states in Malaysia) students may have heard their teachers blurt out this statement during class – ‘Jangan ketawa, nanti ilmu kamu hilang dari otak‘ or any of its variations which in English means ‘Do not laugh, otherwise you will lose the knowledge that you have gained’. Nobody is sure who started this saying but this statement misleads students into thinking that there is a harmful direct link between laughter and knowledge retention. This is actually a false cause fallacy. A false cause fallacy is when we presumed a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.
Let’s first look at what laughter has to offer us in terms of how it is beneficial for our physical, mental, and social aspects of our lives. According to Robinson et al. (2018), laughter has its physical benefits such as it boosts immunity, lowers stress hormones, decreases pain, relaxes your muscles, and prevents heart disease. He also states the mental health benefits of laughter which are it eases anxiety and tension, relieves stress, and improves mood. As for the social benefits of laughter, he mentioned how it strengthens relationship, help difuse conflict, and promotes group bonding, just to name a few.
Now, how can laughter be harmful? Based on an interview with Ferner and Arronson, authors of the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal, Hamilton (2013) has stated the 13 harmful effects that laughter can cause. A few of the effects would be cardiac rupture, athma attacks, stroke, and dislocated jaw. Many of them are related to the physiological aspects of our bodies.
To look at both of the benefits and harms of laughter, none of them are related to knowledge retention. So, how did this ‘Jangan ketawa, nanti ilmu kamu hilang dari otak‘ saying come about? Well, if you are a teacher teaching a class of 30 – 40 students, when one (or many) of them is (are) laughing when the activity for that period of teaching doesn’t warrant any laughter to take place, it will be an annoyance. Perhaps this statement serves as a warning for the students to just be quiet. The intention may be innocent on the part of the teacher but it has somehow been conditioned in the minds of the people, whom were once students of teachers who had blurted out the saying, as well as in the minds of the people whom have become teachers themselves. It has been spread from generation to generation and therefore, it has become a cycle.
A student who laughs a lot may have failed an exam but there are other causes that may have caused his/her failure. He/she may have laughed a lot in class during lessons but perhaps it’s because he/she wasn’t paying attention or the lack of effort & diligence, not because he/she was laughing.
A false cause fallacy such as this has been imparted to the students by teachers, a profession that is suppose to teach students to think critically. However, the blame shouldn’t be put onto the teachers themselves. The root cause is the education system.
If you are a teacher who is reading this, let’s think of ways to tell students to be quiet and ways to make them comply to our instructions instead of telling them a false cause fallacy. It is only going to deceive them and as teachers, isn’t it unethical and irresponsible for us to do so?
Robinson, L., M. S., & J. S. (2018, March). Laughter is the best medicine. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm
Hamilton. A. (2013, December 16). That’s not funny: 15 reasons why laughing is bad for you. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/12/16/thats-not-funny-15-reasons-why-laughing-is-bad-for-you/