Since the 1950s, the laugh track (or “canned laughter”) has been a standard feature of American situation comedies. The laugh track has attracted considerable attention from the social and psychological sciences, as well as ire from viewers. Primarily, criticisms of the laugh track see its use as a problem of morality, either because it coerces viewers into laughing or makes them more receptive to ideological messages from the media. These concerns are exaggerated. Use of the laugh track, however, does seem deceptive, evidenced by the television industry's continued secrecy about its use. A better approach would be to move from morality-based arguments about who is to blame for the widespread use of the laugh track to an ethics-based perspective that regards providing viewers with information about the use of a laugh track in particular television episodes as a question of media ethics.

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