Why You Should Probably Stop Fake-Laughing

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026_R29-Shot4-217-RT_LaurenPerlsteinPhotographed By Lauren Perlstein.
In life — and in uncomfortable social situations in particular — laughter often is the best medicine. When in doubt, or when stuck in a seemingly interminable silence, it seems like the most socially acceptable option is just to laugh 'til the awkward goes away, even if your mirth isn't totally sincere.

But, even the smoothest operators among you probably aren't fooling as many people as you think. New research suggests that people can see right through your fake laughter more than 60% of the time.

Scientists at UCLA recorded 18 samples of (hopefully) genuine laughter from a series of conversations among a group of undergraduates. They then recorded 18 samples of forced laughter from a different group of undergrads. Finally, the researchers played both sets of recordings to three groups of students and asked them to guess which laughs were fake, and which were the real deal. The data showed the students were fooled by the fake laughs only 37% of the time.

The study's authors then sped up both sets of recordings and played them back again. Interestingly, this time around, the subjects fell for the fake laughs about 50% of the time.

So, next time you find yourself locked in the grips of a painfully awkward silence, maybe think about just reveling in it. After all, it's better than being seen as a big fat faker.