Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence – Oscar Wilde
Sarcasm is a form of verbal irony that expresses negative and critical attitudes toward persons or events. It is often a hurtful or biting form of humor. Related IFOD on irony: Isn’t it Ironic? Probably Not – The Misuse of the Word Irony
Regional Variations in Sarcasm. Does use of sarcasm vary by region? A recent study has concluded that it does. The study utilized college students from New York and from Tennessee and concluded that the Northerners were more sarcastic than the Southerners and that males were more sarcastic than females. Wow, that’s surprising.* Upon questioning, it was determined that the Northerners found sarcasm to be more humorous than Southerners.
We Really Need an Emoji That Denotes That We Intend Sarcasm. Sarcasm is easily misunderstood in electronic communications. In a study, participants correctly recognized when statements were sarcastic 73% of the time when spoken but only 56% of the time when communicated electronically. The senders of sarcastic emails had thought that 78% of the recipients of sarcasm would recognize that sarcasm was intended (so there’s a 78% vs. 56% gap).
Sarcasm as Brain Exercise. Sarcasm has been found to cause the brain to work harder than when receiving sincere statements and that extra work has been found to make our brains sharper over time by stimulating complex thinking.
Sarcasm can Boost Creativity. Similar to the above point, research from 2015 has found that sarcasm boosts creativity for both the expressers and recipients. In the study, volunteers engaged simulated sarcastic, sincere, or neutral dialogues with written out responses. After the dialogues the expressers and recipients of the statements engaged in conversations and were given tasks that challenged their creativity and found that those participants of the sarcastic dialogues were more creative. Here are the highlights of the study:
- Sarcasm is an instigator of conflict but also a catalyst for creativity.
- General forms of sarcasm promote creativity through abstract thinking for both expressers and recipients.
- Expressing sarcasm to or receiving sarcasm from trusted others increases creativity without elevating conflict.
Why might sarcasm stimulate creativity? According to one of the study authors in Scientific American: Because the brain must think creatively to understand or convey a sarcastic comment, sarcasm may lead to clearer and more creative thinking. To either create or understand sarcasm, tone must overcome the contradiction between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates, and is facilitated by, abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking.