Those who think they've perfected the art of fake laughter are in for a surprise: You're not fooling anyone.
In a new study, to be published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, scientists found that even our most realistic efforts to feign amusement fool no one.
Researchers found that people are actually "extremely good" at detecting even the most realistic sounding of phony giggles.
In the study, volunteers could almost always differentiate between someone who is genuinely erupting into laughter and someone who is participating in what experts called "social laughter."
Researchers presenting their findings at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London had carried out brain scans on volunteers listening to expressions of disgust, a real laugh and a realistic fake one.
Researcher Sophie Scott, professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, found that participants were almost always able to detect a phony "social laugh" from a real laugh.
However, Scott said that even though we are able to tell that people are only pretending to laugh at our jokes, we identify "social laughter" to be more of a compliment rather than an insult.
"Most of our laughter is posed. We use it as a way of keeping conversation going, as a way of showing our friends we like them or impressing people," she said, according to Daily Mail. "They know it’s not genuine, but I don’t know if they always mind. You are appreciating what they are doing and getting a positive affiliation going."
Researchers said that MRI scans revealed that different areas of our brains are activated when we hear real laughter compared to fake laughter.
Fake laughter activates more brain activity in the media prefrontal cortex, the brain area that is associated with problem-solving, probably because we try to understand why the person is doing it, whereas genuine laughter simply activates auditory areas in the temporal lobe, the brain area that processes sound.