science of us

How and Why to Cultivate an Evil Laugh

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Have you ever woken up yearning to communicate that you’re not just a freeloader and a cheat, but also a psychopathic sadist? I call it “Wednesday”! No but seriously, if you’re having trouble convincing people — children especially — of how little you care for them, you might look into honing your evil laugh. And you could do worse than polishing it with “The Function of Evil Laughter,” a colorful and thorough paper from the Journal of Popular Culture.

“Villains laugh, alone or among themselves, when bad things happen to us or to our kith and kin,” the researchers write. These villains “are not just different from us but essentially evil and beyond redemption.” Is that you or someone you know? And has anyone ever actually emitted or witnessed an evil laugh in the flesh? It could be fun to deploy on the train someday.

Although, a truly evil laugh can’t just be emitted at will, it seems — it must go miles beyond “laughter-like panting” (as found in some of the great apes, per Darwin), and must be real and helpless, too, “signaling that the villain is intrinsically motivated by the prospect of causing harm.”

If I had a nickel for every time my laughter-like pant failed to menace …

And, for fear-inspiring purposes, you could also always consider freshening up your pallor, your ‘90s brows, and your statement lip.

How and Why to Cultivate an Evil Laugh