Experts have revealed that people from two particular countries can tell if someone is from the same place as them, simply upon hearing their laughter.
Experts from the University of Amsterdam played audio clips to a total of 404 listeners to see if they could distinguish which non-verbal sound belonged to someone from their own country.
The study, which was published in Philosophical Transactions B, revealed that vocal information about people is encoded within laughter, and saw listeners analyse which laughter they deemed more positive.
Audio clips from volunteers in Japan and the Netherlands were played to 273 Dutch and 131 Japanese listeners, the Daily Mail reports.
On a scale of one to seven, listeners had to rate how positive the laughter sounded, if it was made by someone from the same country or cultural group, and if it was ‘spontaneous’ laughter or ‘voluntary’.
‘Spontaneous’ laughter marks someone laughing in an uncontrolled way, and was identified by listeners as being hard to fake. But ‘voluntary’ laughter, was analysed as being seen as ingenuine and strained, such as a polite laugh to an awkward situation or bad joke.
A ‘voluntary’ laugh is produced with more vocal control, which means speakers can be more easily identified through it, a theory that has been proven through older studies.
In response to hearing the laughter, listeners from the Netherlands were 73-75% correct in identifying where the person who laughed came from, and Japanese listeners were correct 77% of the time.
The most positive type of laughter was considered spontaneous rather than forced by both groups of listeners.
However, the laughter of Dutch people was rated as being the most positive of all, according to listeners from the Netherlands.
Researchers concluded that the study added to growing evidence that suggests that laughter is a strong vocal signal that says a lot about a person.
Laughter can strengthen social relationships, through being a signal of recognition, bonding and a shared effort.
However, ‘spontaneous’ laughter compared to ‘voluntary’ was seen to more positively impact social relationships.
Psychologist Roza Kamiloğlu led the study to expand on earlier studies and to see if listeners would be able to identify whole groups, rather than just individuals.
It was decided that ‘in-group laughter’ was more positive than laughter that took place ‘out-group’.
The researchers noted:
Our results demonstrate that listeners can detect whether a laughing person is from their own or another cultural group at better-than-chance accuracy levels based on only hearing a brief laughter segment.
Contrary to prediction, we found no advantage for the notion that participants would be better at identifying group membership from voluntary laughter.
Kamiloğlu explained how the ‘ability to differentiate in-group laughs from out-group laughs is likely to apply to other cultures’ too, ‘especially if the cultural distance is high’, she said.
A previous experiment incorporated six different nationalities for listeners to choose from, however when listeners failed to identify the laughter, it was resolved that ‘listeners are only able to infer rudimentary group information from laughter, but not information sufficient to making more complex judgements’.
Subsequently, only Dutch and Japanese people were used, chosen on the basis of the two being two very ‘distant cultures’.
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CreditsDaily Mail and 1 other
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B