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Making Sense of Laughter: a comparison of self-reported experience, perception and production in autistic and non-autistic adults

Cai, Qing; (2023) Making Sense of Laughter: a comparison of self-reported experience, perception and production in autistic and non-autistic adults. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Laughter has primarily been viewed as positive emotional vocalisation associated with humour and amusement. It is commonly used as a communicative tool in social interaction. Our mentalising network automatically engages in laughter processing to understand other people’s laughter. However, autistic individuals struggle with social communication, driven by their difficulty mentalising. Therefore, this thesis investigated how the self-reported experience, perception and production of laughter differ between non-autistic and autistic adults: Compared to non-autistic adults, autistic adults reported that they laugh less, enjoy laughter less and find it more difficult to understand other people’s laughter. However, autistic adults reported that they laugh on purpose as often as non-autistic adults via a questionnaire study. Autistic adults show a different pattern of laughter production relative to non- autistic adults. A multi-level dyadic study found that non-autistic pairs laughed more when interacting with their friend than a stranger, whilst the amount of laughter produced by pairs of one autistic and one non-autistic adult was not affected by the closeness of the relationship. An explicit processing task found subtle differences in differentiating the authenticity of laughter and perceiving its affective properties between the two groups. Moreover, the addition of laughter increased non-autistic adults’ perceived funniness of humorous stimuli; and they found humorous stimuli funnier when paired with genuine than posed laughs. However, this effect was not consistently observed in autistic adults. A follow-up fMRI study investigated the neural mechanism of implicit laughter processing and how these abilities relate to mentalising ability; subregions in 2 the prefrontal cortex showed greater activation while processing words paired with posed laughter than with real laughter in non-autistic adults but not in autistic adults. In summary, this thesis demonstrated different patterns of laughter behaviour between autistic and non-autistic adults, including self-reported laughter experience, laughter production in social situations, laughter processing and its underlying neurocognitive mechanism. It extended our current understanding of the social- emotional signature of laughter from non-autistic adults to autistic adults and therefore highlighted the critical role of laughter in social interaction.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Making Sense of Laughter: a comparison of self-reported experience, perception and production in autistic and non-autistic adults
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2023. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10171813
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