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UCLA Anthropologists study laughter around the world
June 8, 2016

Anthropologists Daniel Fessler, Brooke Scelza, and Edward Clint (graduate student), and Greg Bryant of UCLA Communication Studies have found that all around the world, people hearing only brief instances of colaughter produced by pairs of American English speakers in real conversations are able to reliably identify friends and strangers. Participants’ judgments of friendship status were linked to acoustic features of laughs known to be associated with spontaneous production and high arousal. These findings strongly suggest that colaughter is universally perceivable as a reliable indicator of relationship quality, and contribute to our understanding of how nonverbal communicative behavior might have facilitated the evolution of cooperation.

In a sample of 966 participants from 24 societies, people reliably distinguished friends from strangers with an accuracy of 53–67%. 

The article can be found at PNAS and a short video here.