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Good news, introverts: Even fake laughs earn you social bonus points


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For some introverts, social settings can present endless uncomfortable interactions, including seemingly minor decisions, like which situations call for a hug, and big-picture milestones, like how to be in a relationship with someone other than yourself. But, introvert, extrovert or some hybrid of the two, the feeling of obligation to laugh when the other person simply isn’t funny can feel terrifying. On the one hand, you don’t want to come across as cold and rude by giving the not-funny comments a straight-faced response, but on the other hand, you don’t want to come across as disingenuous with a faux cackle. Well, according to a recent UCLA study published in Psychology Science, the fake giggle you muster in these uncomfortable situations might actually earn you social bonus points.

With the help of 884 study participants from the United States and 20 other countries, lead researcher Greg Bryant, PhD, sought to observe whether or not people from different cultures were more or less skilled at distinguishing between real and fake laughter, reports Science Daily. To do so, Dr. Bryant and his team extracted sound bites of genuine laughter from a conversation between two English-speaking women and also sound bites of forced laughter from women asked to LOL on demand. After editing both recordings for length, Dr. Bryant played them in random order for the participants.

While heartfelt amusement from “real” laughter was perceived as an earnest acknowledgement of connection, “fake” laughter was regarded as a polite yet reciprocal social response—particularly by those in industrialized societies (like, say, New Yorkers).

The results revealed that across all societies, the majority of people could totally differentiate a spontaneous burst of laughter from a forced one. Listeners from close-knit, less industrialized locales were even more adept at picking out the faux ones, suggesting that in smaller places with more complex social structures, people are more attuned to nuances of emotional engagement. However, the findings also suggest that both types of laughter earn you social-standing points—and perhaps it’s because, as Dr. Bryant says, there’s really no such thing as a “fake” laugh. “Technically, all laughs are real—they are just produced by different vocal systems” he says.

While heartfelt amusement from “real” laughter was perceived by participants as an earnest acknowledgement of connection, “fake” laughter was regarded as a polite yet reciprocal social response—particularly by those in industrialized societies (like, say, New Yorkers).

So, just like grinning through your workout class can help you power through that last, painful round of abs work, feigning a chuckle might help you #fakeittilyoumakeit at your next unbearable networking event.

Here’s how to overcome social anxiety—in whatever situation freaks you out the most. Oh, and deleting this word from you vocab for good will help too.

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