What if you could remix your laugh from fake to 'real'?


Can you easily discern a real from a fake laugh?

We fake laughter all the time. We do it to be polite, hide our ignorance, and even to fit in. Our social interactions sometimes depend on it.

The synthHAsizer is a tool for playing with this verbal display of communication. With it, visitors record their own fake laugh and use sonic filters to remix it from fake to real.

We don’t know how fake laughter evolved, but we do know it is part of our speech, and follows specific sonic patterns. Unlike real, guttural laughter, fake laughter is ‘spoken’, and we’ve learned to recognize its forgery.

So what are the sonic differences and how do we perceive them?

Studies show that fake and real laughs vary in speed, pitch, breath sounds, and crescendo—and this is consistent across cultures. (Bryant, 2014). The most important sonic variable known so far is speed—laughs that are sped up or decreased in duration by 33% sound more real. We actually get better at discerning real from fake laughter as we get older, peaking in perception in our late 30s. And this means we also get better at figuring out the social motives of fake laughter.

This interactive object invites exploration and debate into the sonic qualities of fake and real laughter. 


Do you fake laughter? How often? What role does it play in your social communications and relationships? 

How do you know when someone else is faking it? And how do you determine the social motivation behind the fake laugh? And how does that make you feel?


On view at Science Gallery in FAKE, March-June 2018

Project commissioned by Science Gallery Dublin and created in collaboration with Thomas Wester and Greg Bryant.

You can listen to a radio interview about the project and IFCI with Norma Burke on