No One's Buying Your Fake Laugh


We all have a fake laugh that we trot out for special occasions — your boss makes a bad joke and you chuckle because your want them to like you, your boyfriend/girlfriend’s parents say something goofy and you laugh to be polite, your friend is getting back in the humor game after a violent comic timing accident and you want to be encouraging, and so on — but chances are you’re fooling much less people with your fake chortle than you think.

New research out of UCLA has found that fake laughter is mistaken as real only a little more than 1/3 of the time. The other 2/3 of the time, your audience is quite aware that you’re putting on airs with all that overly enthusiastic “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA”-ing.

As study author and associate professor at UCLA Greg Bryant points out, “Quite a few fake laughs sound pretty good, but listeners seem to pay attention to certain acoustic features that are really hard to fake.”

Those acoustic features mostly come down to speed. The fake laughter tends to be quite a bit slower than the real laughter, something that 63% of listeners are able to pick up on.

From the UCLA Newsroom:

For the study, Bryant recorded the spontaneous conversations of college roommates. From these recordings, he collected 18 spontaneous laughs, which he considered to be genuine. He then enlisted a different group of co-eds to laugh on command. From this exercise, he recorded 18 fake laughs of the same length as the real ones.
With Athena Aktipis, a research scientist at UC San Francisco, he then played the recordings to three groups of UCLA undergraduates. In the first round, the participants were asked to determine whether the laughs were real or fake, and the students could usually tell the difference. But they were fooled by 37 percent of the fake laughs.

Participants had a much harder time distinguishing between laughs when Bryant and his team sped the fake laughter audio up. Hearing them at higher speeds, only half of the people were able to tell that they were fake.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: Don’t laugh at things that aren’t funny, because everyone will know you’re a big phony. Either that or learn how to fake laugh at an extremely fast and convincing pace and become a MASTER PHONY. They’re both good choices.

Bryant’s research currently appears in science journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

Image via Shutterstock.

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