At the risk of outing myself as a big ol’ douche, I consider myself a funny person. I derive a large part of my self-worth from my ability to make other people laugh. A large part of the larger part comes from making girls laugh. So I know a laugh when I hear one. When the laugh isn’t genuine, I can tell. I thought this was just my own narcissism, but a new study from Royal Holloway, University of London, has found that it’s science:
A study led by Dr Carolyn McGettigan, from the Department of Psychology, recorded the brain responses of participants as they listened to the same people produce genuine laughter, caused by watching funny YouTube videos, and forced laughter. The participants, who were unaware the study was about laughter perception, demonstrated different neurological responses when they heard false laughter. This suggested that our brains not only distinguish between the two types of laughter, but attempt to work out why the fake laughter is not genuine.
On a first date, everyone is hyper-self-conscious and analytical. Throw a fake laugh into the mix, and the brain starts puzzling over whatever the other person’s concealed emotion may be. Do they think I’m dumb? Are they dumb for not getting my jokes? Are they laughing because they feel bad for me or are they laughing because they want to impress me and show me they like me. It’s too much!
If you don’t think someone is funny, don’t laugh. It falls into the “honesty is the best policy” category. It’s difficult, because a laugh is a nervous tic and so many of us have people-pleasing in our nature. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by sitting there silently. But a fake laugh ultimately means the same thing as no laugh, with an added dimension of confusion. Just let a dude bomb in peace.