While your poker face may be good at fooling others, your poker laugh probably doesn't hold up under scrutiny, according to two recent studies.
A study in the Evolution and Human Behavior, highlighted by Time, looked at people's ability to discern real laughter from fake laughs. In the experiment, UCLA associate professor of communications Greg Bryant compiled 18 spontaneous laughs from a genuine conversation between college roommates. Bryant then asked other co-eds to laugh on command, and pulled 18 of these laughs. He then presented audio recordings of all of these guffaws and chuckles to participants to test their fake laugh signals. They correctly identified the fake laughs as fake 63 percent of the time. That number signals that your fake laugh works less often than not.
"Quite a few fake laughs sound pretty good, but listeners seem to pay attention to certain acoustic features that are really hard to fake," said Bryant, who jokingly calls himself the "Laughter Guy."
While that experiment showed humans are decent at rooting out the phonies, a study that was broken down in The New York Times last week wasn't as approving of human lie-detecting. In that experiment, researchers plunged participants' arms in ice water and recorded their facial expressions of pain. Then, they dipped those same participants arms in warm water and asked them to fake an expression of pain. Human observers of the two videos couldn't tell the difference any better than a random guess (i.e. 50 percent.) "We have a fair amount of evidence to show that humans are paying attention to the wrong cues," lead study author Marian Bartlett told the Times.