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Humans Can Determine the Difference Between Fake and Real Laughter

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A new study conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles found that the likelihood of fooling someone with a fake laugh is a lot lower than you might expect.

The results of the study are published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. In a series of experiments, Greg Bryant, an associate professor of communications studies at UCLA, found that participants could tell if a laugh is fake about two-thirds of the time.

Using 18 spontaneously recorded "real" laughs and 18 "fake" laughs, Bryant attempted to judge the differences between the two types of laugh and whether people listening were fooled. When listening to fake laughs, listeners were tricked just 37 percent of the time.

Bryant then had participants in the study listen to sped-up and slowed-down versions of the same 36 recorded laughs. When sped up, the fake laughs were found to be more effective, tricking the listener nearly 50 percent of the time. A sped-up laugh, Bryant judged, was more likely to be deemed genuine.

When slowed down, however, listeners were asked to determine whether the sounds were made by humans or animals. Listeners were more likely to correctly guess that fake laughs were made by humans than with the real laughter.

Based on the study, Bryant believes that real and fake laughter are made by separate vocalization systems, and that humans may be the only species that know how to fake laughter.

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