International Education Journal

Special Issue: International Perspectives on Giftedness


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Humour in cognitive and social development: Creative artists and class clowns

Paul Jewell 
School of Education, Flinders University South Australia


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There are a number of characteristics of gifted children reported by teachers and researchers. Such characteristics may include curiosity, advanced mathematical skills, large vocabulary, acute sense of humour. This paper examines the demands that humour, as a creative activity, makes on cognitive and social development. It is derived from research that includes interviews with renowned professional humorists and examination of their work. The production of humour requires a sophisticated cognitive ability in order to relate multilevel disparate concepts. Furthermore, to amuse an audience, a humorist needs a high level of empathy, the ability to see the world from another's point of view, and a sensitivity to people's feelings and beliefs. On the other hand, much humour is cruel, and class clowns are seriously disruptive. An understanding of humour in the context of social and cognitive development reconciles these contrasts and suggests appropriate responses. 

Humour, gifted, cognitive, creativity, empathy


Jewell, P. (2005) Humour in cognitive and social development: Creative artists and class clowns. International Education Journal, 6(2), 200-205.

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