teaching cat

The Powerful Effect of Cat Videos When Teaching Accounting

I’ve been doing it all wrong.

In my class when I teach a topic, I often try to show a video that relates to the topic. For instance, if I’m talking about logistics, I like to show this video of FedEx delivering a pie from Virginia to Hawaii during the Christmas holidays. (warning – don’t watch!)

Or when I talk about flexible manufacturing systems and the power of working closely with one’s suppliers, I like to show this video of a Ford assembly plant in Brazil (warning – don’t watch!)

There’s a lot more videos I could share with you that I’ve used in the classroom, but it appears as if sharing them with you would not be a good idea if I want you to read this entire post.

It also appears that I should stop showing such videos during class.

Why?

In a paper for the Journal of Business and Psychology, an Australian study found that when experiment subjects were given a boring job to do (like going to my accounting class or reading this post), but were then shown a funny video, they worked twice as long as subjects who watched videos about nature or business management.

Hence my warning above to not watch those videos, since doing so may have made it harder for you to get through the tedious task of reading my entire post.

So now a lot of things are starting to make sense to me.

I always thought it was me that caused students to nod off during class, but it’s not! It’s the videos that I show that bring on the drowsiness. (As to that glazed look in their eyes that appears on days when there are no videos, I’m assuming it’s just the lag effect of the video that I showed in the previous class or a couple of weeks ago.)

The authors of the study, David Cheng and Lu Wang, found that humor’s positive effect on persistence was driven, at least in part, by the emotion of amusement. Therefore, people who reported high levels of amusement after watching the humorous video clip were more likely to show increased persistence.

“Although humor has been found to help relieve stress and facilitate social relationships, the traditional view of task performance implies that individuals must concentrate all their effort on their endeavors and should avoid things such as humor that may distract them from the accomplishment of task goals,” Cheng and Wang conclude. “We suggest that humor is not only enjoyable but more importantly, energizing.”

The research study used videos of Mr. Bean as its choice of humor, but any type of humor could be appropriate.

The implications of the experiment, according to Cheng and Wang, is that humor is not only entertaining but also replenishing. Individuals engaging in activities that require persistence may benefit from exposure to humor. Therefore, organizations that require their employees to persist may consider creating a playful culture that encourages the use of humor to increase employees’ persistence.

It’s when I realized that I could replace the words organizations with teachers/bloggers and replace employees with students/readers that I saw how this research was applicable to me.

So no more boring business management videos in my classes or in my blogs; it’s time for cat videos and clips of Sebastian Maniscalco.

I realize I should have placed these videos earlier in this post as a way to keep you reading to the end, so who knows if anyone has even read this far. I will use such an approach in future posts though.

I think this coming year could be my best year of teaching…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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