Laughter is an auditory stimulus that powerfully conveys positive emotion. We investigated how laughter influenced the visual perception of facial expressions. We presented a sound clip of laughter simultaneously with a happy, a neutral, or a sad schematic face. The emotional face was briefly presented either alone or among a crowd of neutral faces. We used a matching method to determine how laughter influenced the perceived intensity of the happy, neutral, and sad expressions. For a single face, laughter increased the perceived intensity of a happy expression. Surprisingly, for a crowd of faces, laughter produced an opposite effect, increasing the perceived intensity of a sad expression in a crowd. A follow-up experiment revealed that this contrast effect may have occurred because laughter made the neutral distractor faces appear slightly happy, thereby making the deviant sad expression stand out in contrast. A control experiment ruled out semantic mediation of the laughter effects. Our demonstration of the strong context dependence of laughter effects on facial expression perception encourages a reexamination of the previously demonstrated effects of prosody, speech content, and mood on face perception, as they may be similarly context dependent.
- Crossmodal interaction
- Facial expressions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)