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What Do Two Friends Laughing Sound Like?

Scott and Madeleine

One of the happiest sounds I know is the laughter of two friends – the full-bellied, all-out, uncontrollable variety that brings tears of joy to your eyes. Have you had moments like this? I sure have. I can recall gasping for air when my best friend Madeleine and I were well into a full-blown laughing fit. When she laughed her whole face got into the act. Her eyes crinkled up and her mouth opened wide while her head tilted slightly back. While I don’t have a photo of her with me in full laugh mode I do have one that captured her laughing broadly at something her husband Scott said to her at my wedding to Jonathan.

She’s been gone for 13 years now, but I can still conjure up the sound and sight of her laughing. So when I read about a study on laughter that demonstrated relationship status I was intrigued. The research was conducted by UCLA professor Greg Bryant and 32 global collaborators, including Daniel Fessler, a UCLA professor and Riccardo Fusaroli, an assistant professor in Denmark. The study aimed to find out if listeners to audio clips of two people laughing could distinguish whether they were friends or strangers.

The results showed that 61% of the time listeners could identify the relationship correctly. But the scenario that they were best able to judge was when two women friends were laughing together. They got this right more than 80% of the time. Regardless of the listener’s cultural background, said Bryant, they presumed that co-laughter between women meant they were friends. “People from around the world assume that when two females are laughing together that they are friends,” he added.

The study suggests that laughter between friends is more spontaneous and has greater irregularities in pitch and loudness, and also has faster bursts of sound. That sounds right to me. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can at UCLA’s Newsroom where you can hear two clips of females laughing (one between friends and the other strangers).

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