Your office romance may be given away by your LAUGH – and it only takes colleagues two seconds to notice, study finds
- You can tell whether people are romantic partners or friends simply by laughter
- Laughter with a friend tends to be louder and more ‘pleasant-sounding’
- Romantic laughter is ‘more feminine, more baby-like, more submissive’
When couples start an office romance, they often try their best to keep things under wraps.
But not going for lunch together or avoiding lingering looks may not be enough to stop the secret getting out, a study suggests.
For others can tell whether people are romantic partners or just friends simply by their laughter, researchers have found – and it only takes one or two seconds of listening to know the difference.
Laughter with a friend tends to be louder and more ‘pleasant-sounding’ than between new couples, according to research led by the University of Baltimore in the US.
Romantic laughter is perceived as ‘more feminine-sounding, more baby-like, more submissive’, they said.
When couples start an office romance, they often try their best to keep things under wraps. But not going for lunch together or avoiding lingering looks may not be enough to stop the secret getting out, a study suggests (stock image)
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The findings are thought to be explained by the ‘vulnerable love’ theory – when, in the early stages of romance, people are unsure of whether the relationship will last – and this ‘leaks out’ in their laughter, said lead author of the study, Professor Professor Sally Farley.
Laughter with friends, being unburdened by the ’emotional volatility and craving associated with romantic love’, sounds more relaxed and less submissive than between new lovers, she said.
For the study, published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behaviour, Professor Farley’s team asked people to listen to audio clips of men and women who had called a friend and a romantic partner while being recorded.
The callers were all in a romantic relationship of less than one year, in order to capture ‘early-stage romantic love’.
In the first experiment, they found that listeners were able to successfully differentiate – i.e. with an accuracy above chance levels – the laughter between friends and between romantic partners.
In the second experiment, the focus was on how people were able to tell the difference.
The final experiment replicated the findings of the first two studies using participants from different countries: India, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, and the United States.
Laughter with a friend tends to be louder and more ‘pleasant-sounding’ than between new couples, according to research led by the University of Baltimore in the US (stock image)
‘Importantly, these three studies showed that individuals are able to differentiate between two closely-affiliated relationship types based on a mere one or two seconds of laughter,’ said Professor Farley.
‘[People] don’t sound as pleasant when they’re laughing with their romantic partner than when they are laughing with their friend.
‘We’re basically engaging in speech modulation even with regard to how our laugh sounds in early-stage romantic love, meaning you’re still modulating your voice and that extends to laughter.
‘This research is important because it underscores that laughter is more nuanced, variable, complex, and socially important than most people believe.’ Professor Farley now wants to study the laughter of long-term couples, she said.
‘Do people’s laughs when they’ve been together for 20 years sound similar to what they would for friends?’, she said.
‘That would be our prediction, because we think basically, this has to do with the underlying anxiety associated with not knowing whether a relationship is going to continue.’
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