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J Acoust Soc Am. 2008 Jul;124(1):472-83. doi: 10.1121/1.2932088.

An acoustic analysis of laughter produced by congenitally deaf and normally hearing college students.

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Department of Psychology, Cornell University, 211 Uris Hall, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Relatively few empirical data are available concerning the role of auditory experience in nonverbal human vocal behavior, such as laughter production. This study compared the acoustic properties of laughter in 19 congenitally, bilaterally, and profoundly deaf college students and in 23 normally hearing control participants. Analyses focused on degree of voicing, mouth position, air-flow direction, temporal features, relative amplitude, fundamental frequency, and formant frequencies. Results showed that laughter produced by the deaf participants was fundamentally similar to that produced by the normally hearing individuals, which in turn was consistent with previously reported findings. Finding comparable acoustic properties in the sounds produced by deaf and hearing vocalizers confirms the presumption that laughter is importantly grounded in human biology, and that auditory experience with this vocalization is not necessary for it to emerge in species-typical form. Some differences were found between the laughter of deaf and hearing groups; the most important being that the deaf participants produced lower-amplitude and longer-duration laughs. These discrepancies are likely due to a combination of the physiological and social factors that routinely affect profoundly deaf individuals, including low overall rates of vocal fold use and pressure from the hearing world to suppress spontaneous vocalizations.

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