The Perception of Spontaneous and Volitional Laughter Across 21 Societies
Laughter is a nonverbal vocalization occurring in every known culture, ubiquitous across all forms of human social interaction. Here, we examined whether listeners around the world, irrespective of their own native language and culture, can distinguish between spontaneous laughter and volitional laughter?laugh types likely generated by different vocal-production systems. Using a set of 36 recorded laughs produced by female English speakers in tests involving 884 participants from 21 societies across six regions of the world, we asked listeners to determine whether each laugh was real or fake, and listeners differentiated between the two laugh types with an accuracy of 56% to 69%. Acoustic analysis revealed that sound features associated with arousal in vocal production predicted listeners? judgments fairly uniformly across societies. These results demonstrate high consistency across cultures in laughter judgments, underscoring the potential importance of nonverbal vocal communicative phenomena in human affiliation and cooperation.