Real laughter is contagious. It’s uncontrollable. Starts in your belly and is unstoppable from there. Science tells us that genuine laughter releases endorphins and leads to a feeling of mild euphoria. Real laughter can increase tolerance to pain. Help reduce stress. Decrease inflammation. Improve blood flow.
Plus, it simply feels good.
When we think of fake laughing, we usually think of something like this:
Overtly fake, with a very unsubtle “stuff you” thrown in there.
The reality, however is completely different. Human beings, it seems are experts at using laughter for their own gain. We fake laugh more than we realise.
A study by neuroscientist Robert R. Provine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County found 80 to 90 per cent of our laughter is contrived.
Read that again: 80 to 90 per cent of laughter is contrived.
It comes from a different section of the brain. This part of the brain is used to be “socially acceptable”, or to punctuate sentences. It’s used to appear friendly or please the other person.
It’s rarely real. It doesn’t feel as good. And – unlike genuine, real, wipe-tears-from-eyes-laughter – it is highly controllable. It can be turned on, turned off, adjusted, no snorting involved. It’s just a part of conversation, like the automated response of “I’m good” to the always-asked question “how are you?”.
We’ve become so used to this, we can rarely tell the difference.
A 2014 study found we tend to confuse fake laughter with real laughter a third of the time. Men are worse at detecting fake laughter than women. And powerful people like to think everything they say is funny; they’re hopeless at detecting a fake laugh.
Which begs the question, could you really tell if your best friend is fake laughing? Well according to science apparently not, plus she likely does it a lot more than you realise.