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Strangers meet: Laughter and nonverbal signs of interest in opposite-sex encounters

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Abstract

When strangers of the opposite-sex meet for the first time, both sexes are in a difficult situation. In this high risk situation, neither person knows the intention of the other, and consequently non-verbal signalling becomes the major channel for communication. Because of their higher biological risk, females should prefer less obvious tactics in order to communicate interest in a potential partner than males. The tactical task of signalling clearly, but at the same time subtly, is solved by the use of multifunctional or metacommunicative signals. In this study we propose that there is not one single meaning for any given signal. In laughing loudly we find a signal which consists of acoustical, mimical and postural information. In this way either laughter can send a this is play message or its meaning can be modified by other signals. Thus laughter, together with its accompanying body postures and movements, conveys messages that range from sexual solicitation to aversion, depending on which and how many different signals are present. Males seem to communicate interest for the female during laughter with only a few signals, such as body orientation and dominance signals. In contrast, females communicate interest via numerous signals which function as signals of bodily self-presentation and submission. In both sexes, a lack of interest is communicated through closed postures.
... As far as an overall frequency of laughter in a conversation is concerned, about 5 laughs per 10 min have been observed in daily interactions among close friends (Vettin and Todt, 2004), though laughter frequency is known to increase up to 75 times per 10 min in the context of an interaction between strangers of opposite sex, with women laughing slightly more frequently than men (Grammer, 1990). The most frequently observed laughs are known to be purely interactional, unrelated . ...
... A recent metaanalysis by Montoya et al. (2018) suggests that the social importance of laughter extends as far as fostering romantic bonds and expressing sexual attraction, though empirical evidence in support of this view is not always clear-cut. For example, a study by Grammer (1990) found no correlation between the frequency of laughter and a romantic interest in conversations of heterosexual interlocutors of the opposite sex. According to the results of the study, laughter can signal either aversion or interest. ...
... According to the results of the study, laughter can signal either aversion or interest. It is rather the body posture that clearly indicates romantic intentions (Grammer, 1990). In contrast, McFarland et al. (2013) study showed that heterosexual men, but not women, use laughter as an indicator of their attraction. ...
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Laughter is a ubiquitous vocal behavior and plays an important role in social bonding, though little is known if it can also communicate romantic attraction. The present study addresses this question by investigating spontaneous laughter produced during a 5-min conversation in a heterosexual speed-dating experiment. Building on the posits of Accommodation Theory, romantic attraction was hypothesized to coincide with a larger number of shared laughs as a form of convergence in vocal behavior that reduces the perceived distance between the daters. Moreover, high-attraction dates were expected to converge toward the same laughter type. The results of the experiment demonstrate that (a) laughs are particularly frequent in the first minute of the conversation, (b) daters who are mutually attracted show a significantly larger degree of temporal overlap in laughs, (c) specific laughter types (classified as a nasal “laugh-snort”) prevail in high-attraction dates, though shared laughs are not consistently of the same type. Based on this exploratory analysis (limited to cisgender, heterosexual couples), we conclude that laughter is a frequent phenomenon in speed dating and gives some indication of a mutual romantic attraction.
... That laughter is such an integral component in our social interactions begs questions about its function and evolutionary origins. Most research on the functions of laughter has focused on the information being broadcast by the person laughing or its role in inducing positive affect in the listener, thereby facilitating interaction or reducing threat [10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]. However, it has also been suggested that human laughter of the involuntary Duchenne type plays a central role in group bonding, at least on the intimate conversational scale [19][20][21]. ...
Article
In anthropoid primates, social grooming is the principal mechanism (mediated by the central nervous system endorphin system) that underpins social bonding. However, the time available for social grooming is limited, and this imposes an upper limit on the size of group that can be bonded in this way. I suggest that, when hominins needed to increase the size of their groups beyond the limit that could be bonded by grooming, they co-opted laughter (a modified version of the play vocalization found widely among the catarrhine primates) as a form of chorusing to fill the gap. I show, first, that human laughter both upregulates the brain's endorphin system and increases the sense of bonding between those who laugh together. I then use a reverse engineering approach to model group sizes and grooming time requirements for fossil hominin species to search for pinch points where a phase shift in bonding mechanisms might have occurred. The results suggest that the most likely time for the origin of human-like laughter is the appearance of the genus Homo ca 2.5 Ma. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Cracking the laugh code: laughter through the lens of biology, psychology and neuroscience’.
... Women have long been recognized to favor a more solidary, cooperative form of interaction than men (e.g., Reis et al., 1985;Strodtbeck & Mann, 1956) and would be expected to show more laughter generally, irrespective of their conversational partner. Grammer (1990) demonstrated that women typically offer more speaker laughter than men. Provine (1993Provine ( , 2000 observed that women offered consistently high amounts of laughter when speaking to both women and men, lower amounts of laughter when listening to men, and much less laughter when listening to women. ...
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The current research treated laughter as an indexical with two closely allied properties: to designate talk as non-serious and to serve as a mode of address signalling a preference for solidarity. These properties gave rise to four discrete forms of laughter bout, solitary speaker, solitary listener, speaker-initiated joint, and listener-initiated joint laughter, which were examined using 55 same-gender pairs discussing three choice dilemma items. By exploring the associations between the wider contextual factors of familiarity, gender, disagreement and status, and the frequencies of each form of bout within the dyad, it was hoped to establish whether laughter was related to how participants modulated their social relationships. Neither familiarity nor disagreement had any effect on any of the forms of laughter bout, while females were found to demonstrate higher frequencies of joint speaker laughter than males. In unequal status pairs, high status female staff joined in the laughter of their low status female student interlocutors less often than the reverse, a finding comparable with the exchange of other terms of address, such as second person pronouns in European languages. It was concluded that joint laughter was a signal of solidarity and solitary speaker laughter was a declared preference for solidarity, but the significance of solitary listener laughter, beyond an acknowledgement of the speaker’s non-serious talk, remained less clear. It was also noted that norms associated with the setting and topic of interaction were influential in determining the extent to which laughter would be used to modulate the relationships between interlocutors.
... Le rire est un signal social capable de faciliter les interactions entre les personnes. Il peut par exemple communiquer de l'intérêt [Grammer, 1990] mais également exprimer une affiliation positive [Owren and Bachorowski, 2003]. Dans le domaine des agents virtuels, des travaux récents se sont penchés sur l'influence du rire d'un agent sur l'expérience ressentie par un utilisateur. ...
Thesis
Afin d’être considérés comme des partenaires crédibles lors d’une interaction, les agents virtuels doivent transmettre une attitude sociale adéquate. Cette attitude sociale exprimée par l’agent doit refléter la situation dans laquelle il se trouve. L’agent doit donc prendre en compte son rôle et sa relation sociale vis à vis de son interlocuteur lorsqu’il choisit comment réagir au cours de l’interaction. Afin de construire un tel agent capable de raisonner en fonction de son rôle et de sa relation, et capable d’adapter son attitude sociale, nous avons construit un modèle de prise de décision sociale. Dans un premier temps, nous formalisons la dynamique de la relation sociale à travers une combinaison de buts et de croyances. Puis, nous définissons un modèle de prise de décision basé sur les buts sociaux et situationnels de l’agent. Pour finir, nous avons réalisé une étude perceptive dans un contexte d’interaction tuteur/enfant virtuels au cours de laquelle les participants évaluaient l’attitude sociale du tuteur envers l’enfant. La relation sociale et le rôle social du tuteur étaient manipulés par notre modèle. Les résultats montrent qu’à la fois le rôle et la relation du tuteur ont une influence sur son attitude sociale perçue.
... It is also plausible that when young females are romantically interested in males they will position themselves deferentially. Provine (1993: 296) suggested males were more adept at "evoking audience laughter" and in same gender interaction this may be the case but, as has been noted by Grammer (1990), gender differences only emerge when the preferences of all parties coincide. When females do not seek intimacy, they will not defer to males by laughing at their laughables. ...
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Drawing on a range of American, Australian, British and Scandinavian research into laughter, the current paper will use the form of pragmatic analysis typically found in qualitative research and apply it to data produced by the quantitative methodology common in the author’s own discipline of psychology. Laughter will be examined as an indexical that serves both a discourse deictic function, designating the utterance in which it occurs as non-serious, and a social deictic function, marking the laughing person’s preference for social proximity with fellow interlocutors. The paper will then analyse examples and data pertaining to three types of laughter bout derived from taking laughter as an indexical. First, solitary listener laughter will be argued to signify a deferential acknowledgement of continued solidarity with the speaker. Second, solitary speaker laughter will be suggested to mark a simple preference for solidarity. Third, joint laughter will be accepted as a signifier of actual solidarity that may also be used to mark status depending on which party typically initiates the joint laughter. Joint laughter thus acts in a manner closely analogous to the exchange of another set of indexicals, the T and V versions of second person pronouns in European languages. Finally, the paper will conclude by examining the problematic case of laughing at another interlocutor, before briefly considering the implications of this pragmatic perspective for traditional accounts of laughter as well as for future research.
... Likewise, while laughter can function to strengthen bonds between dyads (Panksepp & Burgdorf, 2000); it can also signal embarrassment, efforts to mitigate anxiety, or acquiescence to a higher-status individual (Dunbar & Mehu, 2008). Women's laughter, particularly, seems to be an ambiguous indicator of either interest or disinterest (Grammer, 1990), and tends to be interpreted by men as genuine even when it is, in fact, simulated (McKeown et al., 2015). ...
Article
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Affirmative consent policies on college campuses establish more stringent standards for inferring consent to sex. Although these policies often permit nonverbal communication of consent, they rarely outline finer-grained distinctions about which specific behaviors can stand-in for verbal affirmation. It thus remains possible that students hold different understandings of this policy vis-à-vis the nonverbals used to convey and infer consent, which could undermine the purported utility of affirmative consent initiatives. We presently sampled 442 college undergraduates and asked them to rate whether specific behaviors often present during sexual interaction constitute affirmative indicators of consent. We hypothesized that students would separate into one of three groups depending on how restrictive (e.g., verbal communication only), inclusive (e.g., verbal and clear nonverbals) or potentially non-diagnostic (e.g., sexual arousal, passivity) their behavioral definitions were of affirmative consent. Using cluster analysis, we ultimately identified two groups adhering to a restrictive versus more inclusive operationalization. The former cluster understood affirmative consent as comprising verbal affirmation with variable endorsements of specific nonverbals, whereas the latter consistently endorsed a broader set of nonverbals along with variable ascription to behaviors that do not strongly imply consent. Students in the more inclusive group were more sexually experienced, less likely to use condoms, and viewed casual sex more favorably; as well as were likelier to have received sexual assault education from their parents before and during college, as well as from social media. These findings suggest that subgroups of college students construe affirmative consent policy differently and that these understandings may relate broadly to an individual’s sexual experiences, attitudes, and/or education.
... The existing literature offers support for this hypothesis. To begin with, several studies have attempted to identify flirting acts, finding that the most common ones included smiling (Gueguen, 2008;Houser, Horan, & Furler, 2008;McCormick & Jones, 1989), eye contact (Moore, 2010;Walsh & Hewitt, 1985), laughing (Grammer, 1990;Moore, 2010) and touching (Clark, Shaver, & Abrahams, 1999;Moore, 2010). Subsequent studies have attempted to assess the effectiveness of the different flirting acts. ...
Article
Flirting is essential for attracting mates yet, many people do poorly in it. Accordingly, the current research aimed to address the question what are dealbreakers in flirting. More specifically, by using open-ended questionnaires in a sample of 212 Greek-speaking participants, Study 1 identified 69 acts and traits that people find off-putting in flirting. Study 2, asked a sample of 734 Greek-speaking participants to rate how off-putting they found these traits in a partner. On the basis of participants' responses, these traits were classified into 11 broader flirting dealbreakers. The most off-putting ones, included having a slimy approach, bad hygiene, and not demonstrating exclusive interest. It was also found that women and older participants were more sensitive to almost all of the identified dealbreakers than men and younger participants.
Chapter
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Chapter
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