Do you ever feel like your laugh changes? Well, some studies suggest that it could be due to who you're laughing with. According to a paper published in Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, people's laughter will sound different depending on whether they're with friends or romantic partners.
“Laughter can communicate affiliation and may also serve as a relationship maintenance strategy based on its rich ties to positive relationship outcomes,” the article by Sally D. Farley, Deborah Carson, and Susan M. Hughes, explains. They go on to discuss how laughter plays an integral role in social bonding among humans, helping develop deeper relationships. The fact that babies are born with the capability to laugh is evidence of its importance in people's social development.
However, while it may feel like our laugh changes from time to time, this paper set out to determine if it actually does. To do this, Farley and her colleagues conducted a series of three studies in which participants were asked to call their romantic partner and then a close same-sex friend. Afterward, all of the individuals were asked to listen to the recorded laughter from these calls and differentiate between the laughter that was intended for romantic partners versus friends.
As it turns out, the participants were fairly proficient at distinguishing the two types of laughter and described the laughter exchanged between romantic partners to be less pleasant compared to that directed to friends, which was felt as being more relaxed and natural. This was attributed to the heightened emotions felt between romantic partners, which causes people to change the way they sound.
“Because friendships are less likely to be burdened by the emotional volatility and craving associated with romantic love, we posit that romantic laughter will sound more forced and tense than friendship laughter,” the paper suggests. “As a result, despite the high rates of affection shared by friends and romantic partners, we argue that friendship laughter will be perceived as more spontaneous and authentic than romantic laughter.”
A series of studies find that people laugh differently depending on whether they're with a romantic partner or with friends.