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Published in: Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 1/2017

01-12-2016 | Original Paper

When Sharing a Laugh Means Sharing More: Testing the Role of Shared Laughter on Short-Term Interpersonal Consequences

Authors: Laura E. Kurtz, Sara B. Algoe

Published in: Journal of Nonverbal Behavior | Issue 1/2017

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Abstract

Laughter is a common social behavior. Yet when, why, and how laughter may cause positive relationship change is largely unexamined, empirically. The current studies focus on shared laughter (i.e., when), drawing from theory in relationship science to emphasize the importance of conceptualizing laughter as situated within the dyadic context (i.e., why). Specifically, these studies target untested possible short-term outcomes from social interactions involving shared laughter: positive emotions, negative emotions, and perceived similarity. In turn, each are tested as possible mechanisms through which shared laughter promotes more global relationship well-being (i.e., how). A series of online and laboratory studies provide correlational and causal support for the hypothesis that shared laughter promotes relationship well-being, with increased perceptions of similarity most consistently driving this effect. Discussion focuses on the importance of considering the behavior of laughter itself, as situated within the social context, when making predictions about laughter’s relevance for social life.
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Footnotes
1
In contrast to the relative neglect of shared laughter in the field of psychology, experts in the domain of conversation analysis have studied shared laughter. Still, this largely qualitative work has focused predominantly on shared laughter’s place in and influence on typical speech patterns across individuals and situations, or on the behavior’s role in supplementing or conveying meaning and understanding of associated verbal content, rather than on its direct, causal psychological or relational implications (see Glenn and Holt 2013 for review).
 
2
Although not discussed here because it is not directly relevant to the current theorizing, previous research has documented some sex differences regarding humor use and laughter production as well as their implications for certain intra-individual and inter-individual outcomes (e.g., Provine 1993; Grammer and Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1990). Thus, to link to prior literature, we also tested sex as a possible moderator in each primary analysis across studies. None of these models revealed statistically significant interactions; we do not report these results in the manuscript, nor do we speculate about sex differences in the Discussion.
 
3
This analytic strategy provided the most conservative tests of our hypotheses. However, results remain consistent when participants who indicated no laughter are recoded as 0 % shared laughter, rather than removed from the sample (see Table 5 in Appendix); the only difference being that the indirect effect via negative emotions also becomes significant.
 
4
The observed differences in sample sizes between conditions was most likely caused by the fact that assignment was kept entirely random, without restrictions on condition count.
 
5
87 additional participants completed the online questionnaire but did not attend the lab session.
 
6
Four additional measures were included for exploratory analyses regarding a different question about domains for which shared laughter may influence perceived similarity; they are not reported here due to their exploratory nature. Interested readers may contact the first author for more information.
 
7
As in Study 1, these analyses provide the most conservative test of shared laughter’s unique influence on relationships beyond other laughter more generally by including only those participants who were coded as laughing during the interaction. Rerunning the same models with those excluded participants (i.e., participants who did not report or were not coded as laughing at all) recoded as 0 % shared laughter returns similar results, with perceived similarity still a significant mediator of each effect (see Table 7 in Appendix for full mediation model results). Moreover, we report here the results of analyses with behaviorally-coded shared laughter percentages as the predictor. Results remain consistent if one substitutes participants’ perceived shared laughter as the predictor, with one notable exception: the indirect effects of perceived shared laughter on liking and affiliation via negative emotions were also significant (B liking = .002, CI: .0001 to .0046; B affiliation = .003, CI: .0002 to .007).
 
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Metadata
Title
When Sharing a Laugh Means Sharing More: Testing the Role of Shared Laughter on Short-Term Interpersonal Consequences
Authors
Laura E. Kurtz
Sara B. Algoe
Publication date
01-12-2016
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Journal of Nonverbal Behavior / Issue 1/2017
Print ISSN: 0191-5886
Electronic ISSN: 1573-3653
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-016-0245-9

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