London - Canned laughter can make corny jokes seem funnier than they probably merit, say scientists.
Adding a pre-recorded laughter track of the kind used in sitcoms such as Friends can make even the weakest gag more amusing, researchers at University College London found.
They added laughter to more than 40 jokes that were read aloud by a comedian and rated by volunteers. Two versions of the jokes were created, one with "posed" laughter, and the other with spontaneous or "real" laughter.
The "posed" or canned laughter was generated by getting six adults to laugh on to a tape. The "real" laughter was created by recording them watching funny YouTube clips. The scientists found the laughter raised the ratings given for the jokes, and the spontaneous laughter was most effective.
Neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott, who is also a stand-up comedian , was lead author of the research published in the journal Current Biology. She said: "Our study showed that adding laughter to a joke increases the humour value, no matter how unfunny the joke is. It also suggests we respond much better to genuine laughter, rather than posed or canned laughter."