I hate canned laughter. So do you, I bet. It is aggressively fake, jarring, disruptive, and to be honest, at times a bit insulting. I don’t need to be told when to laugh.
Yet, the biggest sitcoms in the world continue to use it. Executives, time and time again, make the decision to add a laugh track. Why?
Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of the fantastic book ‘Influence’, explains:
“We view behaviour as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”
We are highly social creatures. Following the crowd makes sense most of the time. A laugh track is an easy guide – you know you’re not insane if you laugh with everyone else. It’s a clear signal, a way to measure your normality.
“Whether the question is what to do with an empty popcorn box in a movie theatre, how fast to drive on a certain stretch of highway, or how to eat the chicken at a dinner party, the actions of those around us are important in defining the answer.”
It’s important to learn from others. But we can’t just blindly follow the crowd. Don’t lose your ability to think critically, analyse the evidence and come to a reasoned decision off your own back.