Students’ empathy through English jokes of Robots

Humor and empathy are vital for medical professionals’ communication with patients. It is also important for these professionals to be humorous because they are facing bitter and stressful situations everyday. Besides, humor is important in learning a foreign language. To test the hypothesis that the use of humor in the training of public speaking can enhance students’ empathy, this study was conducted on 44 participants at a medical university in Taipei, Taiwan, from February to June 2008. ·  ielts coaching centre in chennai

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Methods Humor was implemented into the learning activities of public speaking in English, such as selfintroductions, searching for English jokes, finding out elements of humor and jokes, participating in joketelling contest, telling jokes to friends, and role-plays “Teaching robots to tell English jokes.” Students were grouped based on their preference of joke types. They created the stories by themselves and rehearsed together. Their role-plays were videotaped for evaluation and review. All the speaking activities were recorded and evaluated. The participants’ empathy levels were measured by using the Empathy Quotient questionnaire (i.e., The Cambridge Behaviour Scale) which contains 60 items among which 20 are filler items. The EQ has been proved to have highly significant test-retest reliability (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004). Twenty-eight participants’ (15 males and 13 females) data were complete and effective. Jokes found from the Internet were used for the learning of English and the elements of jokes and punch lines. The participants were grouped based on their preference of joke types: linguistic, aggressive, nonsense, and other types of jokes. Besides the self-introductions which were made at the beginning and the end of the semester, respectively, there was also an English joketelling contest in the middle of the semester, and two role-plays in the last two weeks of the semester. All speaking activities were recorded and evaluated based on five criteria: fluency, content, humor (in selfintroductions and joke-telling activities)/body language (in the role-plays), articulation, and grammar. The two role-plays were videotaped particularly to examine the participants’ body language in public speaking.

All the participants have made progress in roleplays, and that 92.9% of them have made progress in self-introductions. Their scores in each domain of evaluation were shown in Fig. 1. In the role-play assessment, only one participant did not make any progress, and another one had lower scores in the second self-introduction. Students’ sense of humor and empathy were both found to have been enhanced after training of humorous public speaking. Fig. 2 shows the sense of humor exhibited in self-introductions. The group of participants who preferred aggressive jokes exhibited a greater sense of humor as they made self-introductions. Overall, 71.4% (males: 60%; females: 40%) of the participants have developed a greater sense of humor in their self-introductions. On the other hand, among the five evaluation domains, humor was the least improved in groups with preferences for linguistic jokes, aggressive jokes, and nonsense jokes. Besides, 60.7% (males: 58.8%; females: 41.2%) of the 28 participants had developed more empathy after the second role-play. As to whether they wanted to be humorous or not, 46.4% (males: 38.5%; 61.5%) of them have greater desire to become more humorous. Besides, 57.1% (males: 62.5%; females: 37.5%) of them perceived themselves as having become more humorous than before.

The experimental outcomes proved that implementing humor in the participants’ English learning did enhance their empathy and English proficiency simultaneously. However, in the questionnaire measurement of empathy, there was male superiority. This finding differs from that of the earlier studies in which female superiority is found in the same Empathy Quotient questionnaire (Davis, 1980; Davis & Franzoi, 1991; Hall, 1978; Hoffman, 1977). This entails the need for further research about gender differences of empathy and about whether one’s sense of humor is associated with empathy.

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