Children's laughter tops joy division

17:00, Jun 25 2011

The sound of children laughing has come out tops in a New Zealand study on "sounds of joy", while "armpit farts" ranked bottom.

An online research company's study of over 500 people has revealed the noises that delight New Zealanders. Laughter was No1, followed by music, native birdsong (tui specifically) and waves breaking.

But armpit farts, V8 engines and firecrackers drive us crazy, according to the study by Buzz Channel.

Psychologist Aaron Jarden, president of the NZ Association of Positive Psychology, said although nature and animal sounds were well known to be therapeutic, laughter was a surprising find.

"I think that is purely an evolutionary mechanism in the sense that laughter is a sign that things are going well."

Children's laughter specifically came out on top, which Jarden put down to humans' innate drive to procreate. He said picturing a baby evoked a feeling of wellbeing but adding the sound of laughter made it more potent. Jarden said the research needed to be taken further.


"When you hear a baby laughing, you probably have a mental image of a baby laughing as well, so putting these sounds in context to see how they invoke more positive emotion is the next step."

The research found sounds including low droning, constant noise or bursts of loud sounds created negative emotion. And firecrackers and V8 engines signalled danger, Jarden said.

"The literature shows that being in a noisy environment which has a dull hum or a loud sound is very bad for your wellbeing because it takes away joy."

Kiwiana came through in the study with tui, crashing waves and the sounds of sizzling sausages featuring in the top 10.

Jarden, the lead investigator in New Zealand for an international wellbeing survey, said regularly experiencing joy was a vital component in the wellbeing spectrum, along with positive emotion, engagement and meaning in life, positive relationships and accomplishment. "Those are the five key areas, if you are topping those, and doing well in those, you will have wellbeing."

Jarden is one month away from publishing the New Zealand results for the survey but can already say Kiwis are doing "really well, we're pretty much up there".

The study breaks down well-being into components and New Zealanders have ranked well.

"I can say things like a lot of New Zealanders have a lot of purpose in life, a lot of meaning and they take time to savour things.

"One area they don't do so well in is using strengths."

The "Share the Joy" research was commissioned by Cadbury Dairy Milk.

Sunday Star Times