Colaughter–simultaneous laughter between two or more individuals–allows listeners across different cultures and languages to quickly evaluate affiliation within a social group. We examined whether infants are sensitive to acoustic information in colaughter that indicates affiliation, specifically whether they can differentiate colaughter between friends and colaughter between strangers. In the first experiment, infants who heard alternating trials of colaughter between friends and strangers listened longer to colaughter between friends. In the second experiment, we examined whether infants were sensitive to the social context that was appropriate for each type of colaughter. Infants heard colaughter between friends and colaughter between strangers preceded by a silent visual scene depicting one of two different social contexts: either two people affiliating or turning away from each other. Infants looked longer when the social scene was incongruent with the type of colaughter. By 5 months, infants preferentially listen to colaughter between friends and detect when colaughter does not match the valence of a social interaction. The ability to rapidly evaluate acoustic features in colaughter that reveal social relationships between novel individuals appears early in human infancy and might be the product of an adaptive affiliation detection system that uses vocal cues.
ASJC Scopus subject areas