What laughter means for a conversation
Plus, more evidence for the beauty bias…
“ When you insist that we must have error-free lives, the main thing that happens is not that error goes away, it's that you stop hearing about it.” —Amy Edmondson
Funny how? Who doesn’t love to laugh? A recent study looked at the role of laughter in one-on-one conversations. The researchers were curious: Who’s more responsible for the laughter in a conversation, the person laughing or the person who prompted the response? To answer this question, they had volunteers engage in conversations, then recorded how frequently they laughed. There were a few surprising findings. First, how often someone laughed seemed to be pretty consistent. In other words, people who laugh a lot seem to laugh a lot regardless of their conversational partner, which suggests laughter in a conversation is more about the laughter than the laugh-ee. Second, the more people laughed, the less they enjoyed the conversation. This might be because laughter is used as a social lubricant. “If you intrinsically enjoy talking to strangers and feel comfortable doing so, you may not feel the need to laugh a lot and smooth out the interaction,” writes study author Adrienne Wood. However, that laughter had a positive effect on the conversation partner – they felt they had more in common with the other person when that person laughed a lot. “So in conversations between strangers, laughing a lot is not a sign of enjoyment, but it will make your partners feel similar to you,” Wood says. “They will be likelier to agree that the two of you have something in common, which is a key ingredient in social connection.”
The beauty bias. We like to believe we’re above judging others for the way they look, but science shows otherwise. We treat people differently based on how attractive we find them to be. And a new study finds that the “beauty bias” can even have lethal consequences. Columbia University researchers used mugshots of 400 prisoners sentenced to either death or life in prison, then asked people to rate how attractive and trustworthy those prisoners appeared to be. When prisoners were labeled as untrustworthy, they were more likely to receive a death sentence. What’s more, “faces that were rated less attractive were more likely to belong to individuals who were sentenced to death than life in prison,” the study reported. The good news? Training people to think twice about their stereotypes reduced the effect. The study reported, “Overall, our findings suggest that a counterstereotype intervention can mitigate the potentially harmful effects of relying on facial appearance in consequential social judgments.”
Goal getters. Do you have resolutions for the new year? We have useful insights to help you achieve your goals — check out our recent episode with psychologist Adam Grant. It’s about the science of human potential. Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Making the Most of Your Mistakes: When we’re learning, or trying new things, mistakes are inevitable. Some of these mistakes provide us with valuable information, while others are just harmful. This week, we kick off the new year with researcher Amy Edmondson, who explains the difference between constructive failures and those we should try to avoid.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Justin Horner’s Story: In 2010, Justin was sitting on the side of the freeway, hoping someone would help him fix his car’s busted wheel. Just as he was about to give up, a van pulled over.
Don’t forget to send us the story of your unsung hero! Record a voice memo on your phone and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have three, you have three. If you have two, you have two. But if you have one, you have none. What is it?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
A man pushes his car to a hotel and tells the owner he’s bankrupt. Why?
Answer: He was playing monopoly.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Hidden Brain is a game! Do you struggle to recognize people after you've met them? Do you like games and puzzles? If so, check out Hidden Brain Daily Challenge, our new app available on Apple iOS! It features our very first game, designed to help improve your facial recognition skills. Check it out here.
A MOMENT OF JOY
It’s time to take down the Christmas tree…