Can you tell fake laughter from real laughter?

Sep 04, 2018
09:14 P.M.
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A new study looked at 24 different countries and cultures across the world to determine whether they were able to distinguish real laughter from fake laughter, and the answer shows just how similar people from all walks of life are.


Communications professor Greg Bryant undertook the study which had over 800 participants listen to two clips of laughter to see whether they were able to identify the fake giggles from the genuine laughter. The study concluded that across the cultures, two thirds could.

While humans aren't the only animal to laugh, homo sapiens are the only species that fakes laughter. Real laughter is generally speaking higher in pitch, and more often than not louder than the fake version.

These same characteristics are there when studying pain and anguish, suggesting it "is a more emotional and primal response that emerged early in human evolution." Fake laughter developed later with the development of speech.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

It has been suggested that the original purpose of laughter, given how far it dates back, is actually to help improve health. Given the importance of social relationships among humans, laughter is a way to affirm the bond.


Bryant noted that "tiny subtleties of your breathing are probably giving you away" when dolling out the fake laughter.

"Quite a few fake laughs sound pretty good, but listeners seem to pay attention to certain acoustic features that are really hard to fake," he said.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock


Another study of Bryant's also determined that most people are even able to identify the laughter of their friends without looking to see them. People were successful in this endeavor between 53 and 67 percent of the time.

To Bryant, this suggests the closeness of the bond between good friends, and signals that they "have someone on their side."

Spontaneous laughter is considered to be that triggered involuntarily, by "conversations or events," and starts when a baby is only a few months old, even in children who have visual or hearing impairments.

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