According to new research by the University of California San Diego, laughter can give some insight into the social status of a person.
In the study, 48 male members of a university fraternity were placed into low-status (pledges, having recently joined the fraternity) and high-status (fraternity members active for two years or more) groups. The men were recorded telling jokes to each other.
They found that the low-status groups had constrained, submissive laughs, compared with their high-status fraternity brothers who displayed dominant, louder laughter.
“I think this is about the psychology of power, and status tends to co-occur with power,” assistant professor Christopher Ovesis said. “We give off a lot of information about ourselves in the way we behave, and we’re constantly trying to detect these signals from people even on an unconscious level.”