Scientists reveal why film baddies like Cruella de Vil have such evil laughs

From Cruella de Vil to The Joker, many of the most memorable film baddies have a truly evil laugh.

Now, scientists have revealed the psychology behind these iconic laughs.

In a new essay, Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, a psychologist at Aarhus University argues that a wicked laugh is a clear sign that a villain is evil.

The laugh indicates that the character gains ‘open and candid enjoyment’ from others’ suffering.

Delving deeper into evil laughs, the researchers suggest that part of their power comes from their salience – evil laughs tend to be both visual and vocal.

Additionally, laughs are usually hard to fake – making them a fairly reliable social signal of someone’s reaction to an event.

This means that we usually trust what we’re hearing, unlike in dialogue.

There are also several practical reasons for evil laughs, according to Mr Kjeldgaard-Christiansen.

For example, the graphics in the first Super Mario games meant it was hard to evoke an emotional response from a player.

But giving Wario and evil laugh helped to highlight to players that he was a baddie.

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Mr Kjeldgaard-Christiansen wrote: “This is the only communicative gesture afforded to these vaguely anthropomorphic, pixelated opponents, and it does the job.”

The researchers now hope to carry out more experiments on evil laughs – for example, comparing their properties to find out the ultimate cackle.

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