The Perception of Spontaneous and Volitional Laughter Across 21 Societies

Gregory A Bryant, Daniel M T Fessler, Riccardo Fusaroli, Edward Clint, Dorsa Amir, Brenda Chávez, Kaleda K Denton, Cinthya Díaz, Lealaiauloto Togiaso Duran, Jana Fanćovićová, Michal Fux, Erni Farida Ginting, Youssef Hasan, Anning Hu, Shanmukh V Kamble, Tatsuya Kameda, Kiri Kuroda, Norman P Li, Francesca R Luberti, Raha PeyraviPavol Prokop, Katinka J P Quintelier, Hyun Jung Shin, Stefan Stieger, Lawrence S Sugiyama, Ellis A van den Hende, Hugo Viciana-Asensio, Saliha Elif Yildizhan, Jose C Yong, Tessa Yuditha, Yi Zhou

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

37 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1515-1525
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception/physiology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laughter/psychology
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication/psychology
  • Volition
  • Young Adult


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