Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 93–115 | Cite as

Laughter in Conversation: Features of Occurrence and Acoustic Structure

Article

Abstract

Although human laughter mainly occurs in social contexts, most studies have dealt with laughter evoked by media. In our study, we investigated conversational laughter. Our results show that laughter is much more frequent than has been described previously by self-report studies. Contrary to the common view that laughter is elicited by external stimuli, participants frequently laughed after their own verbal utterances. We thus suggest that laughter in conversation may primarily serve to regulate the flow of interaction and to mitigate the meaning of the preceding utterance. Conversational laughter bouts consisted of a smaller number of laughter elements and had longer interval durations than laughter bouts elicited by media. These parameters also varied with conversational context. The high intraindividual variability in the acoustic parameters of laughter, which greatly exceeded the parameter variability between subjects, may thus be a result of the laughter context.

acoustic parameters conversation human laughter 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Bachorowski, J.-A., & Owren, M. J. (1999). Acoustic correlates of talker sex and individual talker identity are present in a short vowel segment produced in running speech. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 106(2), 1054–1063.Google Scholar
  2. Bachorowski, J.-A., & Owren, M. J. (2001). Not all laughs are alike: Voiced but not unvoiced laughter readily elicits positive affect. Psychological Science, 12(3), 252–257.Google Scholar
  3. Bachorowski, J.-A., Smoski, M. J., & Owren, M. J. (2001). The acoustic features of human laughter. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 110(3), 1581–1597.Google Scholar
  4. Chapman, A. J. (1973). Funniness of jokes, canned laughter and recall performance. Sociometry, 36, 569–578.Google Scholar
  5. Chapman, A. J. (1976). Social aspects of humorous laughter. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.). Humor and laughter: Theory, research and applications (pp. 155–185). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Darwin, C. (1872). The expression of the emotions in man and animals. New York: Appleton.Google Scholar
  7. Devereux, P. G., & Ginsburg, G. P. (2001). Sociality effects on the production of laughter. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 128(2), 227–240.Google Scholar
  8. Eibl-Eibesfeld, I. (1995). Die Biologie des menschlichen Verhaltens. Grundriß der Humanethologie [The biology of human behaviour. An outline of human ethology]. München: Piper.Google Scholar
  9. Ekman, P., Friesen, W., O'Sullivan, M., & Scherer, K. R. (1980). Relative importance of face, body, and speech in judgements of personality and affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 270–277.Google Scholar
  10. Foot, H. C., & Chapman, A. J. (1976). The social responsiveness of young children in humorous situations. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.). Humor and laughter: Theory, research, and applications (pp. 187–214). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  11. Foot, H. C., Chapman, A. J., & Smith, J. R. (1977). Friendship and social responsiveness in boys and girls. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 401–411.Google Scholar
  12. Grammer, K. (1990). Strangers meet: Laughter and non-verbal signs of interest in opposite-sex encounters. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 14, 209–236.Google Scholar
  13. Grammer, K., & Eibl-Eibesfeld, I. (1990). The ritualisation of laughter. In W. A. Koch (Ed.). Natürlichkeit der Sprache und Kultur (pp. 192–214). Bochum: Brockmeyer.Google Scholar
  14. Harris, C. R., & Christenfeld, N. (1997). Humour, tickle, and the Darwin-Hecker hypothesis. Cognition and Emotion, 11(1), 103–110.Google Scholar
  15. Kipper, S., & Todt, D. (2001). Variation of sound parameters affects the evaluation of human laughter. Behaviour, 138, 1161–1178.Google Scholar
  16. Kipper, S., & Todt, D. (2003a). The role of rhythm and pitch in the evaluation of human laughter. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 27, 255–272.Google Scholar
  17. Kipper, S. & Todt, D. (2003b). Dynamic-acoustic variation causes differences in evaluations of laughter. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 96, 799–809.Google Scholar
  18. Krumhansl, C. L. (2000). Rhythm and pitch in music cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 126(1), 159–179.Google Scholar
  19. LaPointe, L. L., Mowrer, D. M., & Case, J. L. (1990). A comparative acoustic analysis of the laugh responses of 20-and 70-year-old males. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 31(1), 1–9.Google Scholar
  20. Lawson, T. J., Downing, B., & Cetola, H. (1998). An attributional explanation for the effect of audience laughter on perceived funniness. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 20, 243–249.Google Scholar
  21. Mannell, R. C., & McMahon, L. M. (1982). Humor as play: Its relationship to psychological well-being during the course of a day. Leisure Sciences, 5(2), 143–155.Google Scholar
  22. Martin, G. N., & Gray, C. D. (1996). The effects of audience laughter on men's and women's responses to humor. Journal of Social Psychology, 136(2), 221–231.Google Scholar
  23. Martin, R. A., & Kuiper, N. A. (1999). Daily occurrence of laughter: Relationships with age, gender, and type A personality. HUMOR—International Journal of Humor Research, 12, 355–384.Google Scholar
  24. Mowrer, D. E., LaPointe, L. L., & Case, J. (1987). Analysis of five acoustic correlates of laughter. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 11(3), 191–199.Google Scholar
  25. Norris, M. R., & Drummond, S. S. (1998). Communicative functions of laughter in aphasia. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 11(4), 391–402.Google Scholar
  26. Nwokah, E., Davies, P., Islam, A., Hsu, H.-C., & Fogel, A. (1993). Vocal affect in three-year-olds: A quantitative acoustic analysis of child laughter. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 94(6), 3076–3090.Google Scholar
  27. Nwokah, E., Hsu, H.-C., Davies, P., & Fogel, A. (1999). The integration of laughter and speech in vocal communication: A dynamic systems perspective. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 42, 880–894.Google Scholar
  28. Provine, R. R. (1992). Contagious laughter: Laughter is a sufficient stimulus for laughs and smiles. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 30(1), 1–4.Google Scholar
  29. Provine, R. R. (1993). Laughter punctuates speech: Linguistic, social and gender contexts of laughter. Ethology, 95, 291–298.Google Scholar
  30. Provine, R. R. (2000). Laughter. A scientific investigation. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  31. Provine, R. R., & Fischer, K. R. (1989). Laughing, smiling, and talking: Relation to sleeping and social context in humans. Ethology, 83, 295–305.Google Scholar
  32. Provine, R. R., & Yong, Y. L. (1991). Laughter: A stereotyped human vocalization. Ethology, 89, 115–124.Google Scholar
  33. Quinn, G. P., & Keough, M. J. (2002). Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.Google Scholar
  34. Rothgänger, H., Hauser, G., Cappellini, A. C., & Guidotti, A. (1998). Analysis of laughter and speech sounds in Italian and German students. Naturwissenschaften, 85, 394–402.Google Scholar
  35. Ruch, W., & Ekman, P. (2001). The expressive pattern of laughter. In A. W. Kaszniak (Ed.). Emotion, qualia, and consciousness (pp. 426–443). Tokyo: World Scientific Publisher.Google Scholar
  36. Scherer, K. R., & Kappas, A. (1988). Primate vocal expression of affective state. In D. Todt, P. Goedeking, & D. Symmes (Eds.). Primate Vocal Communication (pp. 171–194). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  37. Specht, R. (2000). Avisoft-SASLab Pro [Computer software]. Berlin, Germany: Author.Google Scholar
  38. Todt, D. (1986). Hinweis-Charakter und Mittler-Funktionen von Verhalten [The referential character and mediating function of behaviour]. Zeitschrift für Semiotik, 8(3), 183–232.Google Scholar
  39. Vettin, J., Skirl, J., & Todt, D. (1999). From social play to tickling and laughter: A comparative approach [Abstract]. Advances in Ethology, 34, 37.Google Scholar
  40. Vettin, J., & Todt, D. (2003). On the role of laughter in conversation: Differences between short and long laughter bouts. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  41. Weisman, R., Brownlie, L., Olthof, A., Njegovan, M., Sturdy, C., & Mewhort, D. (1999). Timing and classifying brief acoustic stimuli by songbirds and humans. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 25(2), 139–152.Google Scholar
  42. Weisman, R., Njegovan, M., Sturdy, C., Phillmore, L., Coyle, J., & Mewhort, D. (1998). Frequency-range discrimination: Special and general abilities in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) and humans (Homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 112(3), 244–258.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Biologie, VerhaltensbiologieFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Biologie, VerhaltensbiologieFreie UniversitätBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations