True Friends Laugh Differently, Says Study

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To find out who your true friends are, pay attention to the way they laugh around you.

That is the conclusion of a new study, which also claims that you can distinguish between friends and foes based on laughter. If you notice any of your friends intently analyzing your laugh, they may have heard about this study.


Scientists find laughter can show whether people are friends or strangers

“A person laughs loudly when he is around friends. A person looks more excited and smiles more often when he is with friends compared to being in company of strangers, said lead study author Greg Bryant, professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was supported by biological anthropologist Daniel Fessler in the study.

The researchers played audio clips of laughter to people from 24 different cultures. Participants came from a wide variety of nations including Slovakia, Austria, Namibia and Peru.

Bryant says that many cultures displayed similar expressions of laughter. The four dozen audio clips used in the study were taken from 24 conversations recorded 10 years ago.

Participants correctly identify conversations

While 50% of the colaughter clips were between friends, the other half were between strangers. The research team played the recordings in a random order to 966 participants and asked them to identify those clips that were recorded between friends and those recorded between strangers.

Bryant predicted that people from around the world would give correct responses most of the time. The results vindicated the prediction as participants correctly identified the clips around 61% of the time. However Bryant was surprised to see that 83% of participants correctly identified the clips in which two female friends were laughing.

“People from around the world assume that when two females are laughing together that they are friends. This is consistent with other research showing that women take longer than men to develop friendships that result in genuine co-laughter”, said lead researcher Bryant in a statement.

As Fox5Vegas says:  “Next time you hear a joke, you may want to pay attention to how the people around you react. Laughter can identify whether people are among friends or strangers, a new study suggests.”

You can’t fake a proper laugh, says study

With friends people are observed to laugh louder, display irregularities in frequency and sound more excited, says Bryant.

Jessica Wolf wrote a report on the study for the University of California. “The research, co-authored by Greg Bryant, a UCLA professor of communication studies, was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It found that the phenomenon holds true in societies around the world — and that when people hear two females laughing together, they are highly likely to assume the women are friends, even when they are not,” said Wolf.

“In a highly cooperative species such as ours, it is important for individuals to correctly identify the social alliances of others,” Bryant said. “If laughter helps people accomplish that, it has likely played a role in social communication leading to cooperative interactions.”

“When people laugh among friends, their guffaws tend to sound more excited than when that laughter occurs between strangers,” said Bryant. “We expected that it would work everywhere given the evolutionarily ancient nature of laughter,” Bryant said.

As a result of the study Bryant also concluded that laughter’s nuances are in fact cross-cultural. As anyone who has traveled to a foreign country without knowing a lick of the language can attest, non-verbal communication is extremely effective.

It seems that laughter provides another cue so that we can work out what kind of social situation we find ourselves in.

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