The Laughter Project

The Laughter Project is a PhD research supervised by Prof Sophie Scott and Dr Sarah White. We focus on the processing and production of laughter in typical developing and autistic adults.

Laughter is primarily viewed as positive emotional vocalization associated with humour and amusement, e.g. you cannot help yourself and laughing while watching funny videos on Tiktok/YouTube. However, imagine a situation like this: your friend is telling a joke, you do not get the joke BUT you laugh with your friends. Indeed, laughter is common to be used as a communicative tool, you laugh because you like your friend and you are willing to join their laughter. By carrying out social functions, such as showing politeness, agreement, and affiliation in daily interaction, laughter has a great benefit for our social well-being as a remarkable social signal.

Autistic individuals experience difficulty in social communication in everyday life. As a non-verbal communicative tool, laughter plays an important role in establishing and maintaining social bonds. Investigating how the self-reported experience, perception and production of laughter differ between neurotypical people and autistics could let us better understand the underlying neurocognitive mechanism of laughter and the developmental trajectory of social-emotional vocalisation and its function in social interaction.

The laughter project implements behavioural testing and neuroimaging approaches:
  • 2017-2019: Laughter as a Social Behaviour
    • Laughter Questionnaire: A Cross-Cultural Investigation;
    • Explicit Processing of Laughter between NT and Autism (since 2015);

  • 2018-2019: Laughter Production among Friends, Strangers and Neurodiversity: a Multi-level Dyadic Study
  • 2017-2019 & 2021-2022: The Implicit Processing of Laughter
We hope this project could contribute to mutual understanding between neurotypical and autistic populations and also improve the support available to people who experience these difficulties.

The laughter project is funded by the Academy of Medical Science and the China Scholarship Council. Studies have been approved by the UCL Research Ethics Committee (

Have any questions or would like to discuss the study in more detail?
Please do not hesitate to contact Ceci Qing Cai: