We all do it

Pretend to laugh at our in-laws or a colleague’s joke, thinking that they won’t notice our polite and fake laugh… But most of the time, people are actually able to tell a ‘real’ and genuine laughter from a ‘false’ one. This is because real and fake laughs are produced with different vocal muscles, controlled by different parts of our brain.

‘Real’ laughter is spontaneous and less deliberate. We laugh before we learn to talk. It’s an instinct we are born with and something that is triggered by our emotions. Speech, on the other hand, is much more controlled and not connected to our emotions in the same way – just like a fake laugh!

Real vs. Fake Laughs

Scientist are learning new ways of how people hear and categorizes laughter. A study in the vocal communication lab at UCLA, recorded a range of both ‘real’ and ‘fake’ laughs. 70 % of the time, participants were able to tell the real laughs from the fake ones. Which means 30 percent of the time, they couldn’t tell the difference.

When the recordings were slowed down by about two and a half time, real differences came to light: The ‘real’ laughs sounded almost animal like, whereas the recordings of the ‘fake’ laughs sounded like human speech slowed down. This is not surprising as laughter is believed to have evolved from the labored breathing of animals during physical play.

The study also showed how in real laughs, breathy sounds of air between the vowel-sounds existed to a larger degree than in fake laughs – and how the emotional vocal system had more control over opening and closing the windpipe.

Laughter is not only about humor

Since people, in most cases, are able to distinguish a real laugh from a fake one, we might as well give a polite smile instead of a fake chuckle the next time we feel obligated to laugh at someone’s dumb joke…  or what? Most people think we laugh because something is funny. But laughter is not only about humor – it is also an instinctual social signal tool. It can be used for communicating interest or that we want to be friends. So laughing at your colleague’s joke might be a good thing, as it can signal a willingness to cooperate – even though you’re only laughing to be polite. It is not always about whether the joke is funny, it is just as much about ‘getting along’ with people.

No. Laughter is definitely not only about humor and jokes. It can be used for a lot of different purposes as it sends out specific social signals to people around you – depending on the context.

Why Humor and Laughter are Effective Storytelling Tools

Ads that make us laugh help brands stand the test of time. That is because humans are hardwired to respond to humor and laughter, and that provides a bigger opportunity for brands to stand out and build preference.

We’ve seen how real laughs are difficult to fake, which is why we suggest leaving the acting to the professionals. Given the importance of laughter, there are countless tips and tricks on how to make laughter convincing in voice-over – and experienced actors can deliver. The ways to get there are countless, and top secret as each actor uses their own individual method. An insight though: some of these include studying their own laughter, or the laughter of a close one. In the case of children, making them laugh for real is actually the best way forward, so we always encourage making voice over recordings fun when working with young actors.

Looking to spice your voice-over with some laughter?

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