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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter summarizes findings on the production, perception, and cerebral processing of different types of laughter, such as friendly laughter, tickling laughter, ‘schadenfreude’ laughter (expressing the pleasure about somebody’s misfortune), and taunting laughter. It discusses the articulatory and acoustic patterns related to these different types of laughter. The majority of acoustic patterns specifically linked to distinct types of laugher are related to voice parameters, such as fundamental frequency, and the involvement of the oral and nasal cavities. This may result in coughing-like or snoring-like features of laughter. The chapter argues that this may constitute a link to the evolutionary progression of emotional expression. Regarding laughter perception, the chapter presents studies showing that different types of laughter can be classified by listeners based solely on acoustics. Moreover, it reports specific changes in laughter perception, such as in the case of gelotophobia (the fear of being laughed at) and social anxiety. Lastly, the chapter shows data on the neurobiological underpinnings of laughter perception in healthy subjects, as well as the neural correlates of the negative attention bias observed in patients with social anxiety. The identification of neurobiological correlates of cognitive biases during laughter perception may provide a promising target for evaluation of therapeutic interventions such as neuropsychological training, non-invasive brain stimulation, or neural feedbacktraining in further research projects. To conclude, laughter is a multi-faceted expression of both emotional and social interaction. Studies on how laughter can impact social interaction can be particularly helpful for future work on patients suffering from anxiety.

Keywords: laughter production, acoustics of laughter, laughter perception, evolution of laughter, taunting laughter, connectivity analysis, gelotophobia, social anxiety, schadenfreude

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