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Oh you’re sarcastic? You must be so smart.
Hi smart alecks, Julian here for DNews. My parents always told me when I was a petulant
teenager that, “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.” To which I replied, “Yeah whatever,”
and totally won the argument.
Now I’m a petulant adult and I’m happy to report science seems to agree with me.
A new study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes examined if there
was a link between sarcasm and creativity. Participants were randomly assigned to behave
sarcastically, sincerely, or neutral. They were paired with another participant and went
through a simulated conversation. In a variation of the experiment, participants were asked
to recall an exchange they had had in their life that was either sarcastic, sincere, or
neutral. After they had simulated or recalled a conversation, they were given 3 tests to
measure their creativity and another to measure how well they could think abstractly.
The researchers found that after a sarcastic conversation, participants were more creative
and better abstract thinkers. And it didn’t matter if they were the ones being sarcastic,
just being on the receiving end bolstered their cognitive functions. So just hearing
sarcasm makes you more intelligent. You’re welcome.
But why would being sarcastic help with anything aside from being the funniest person ever?
Coauthor of the study Francesca Gino explained in an email to the Harvard Gazette that “To
create or decode sarcasm, both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to 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
So decoding when someone says, “You look nice today,” needs more thought than just
hearing “You look nice today,” and it gets your brain in gear. But then another
problem arises: it may also make you want to punch that sarcastic jerk in the face.
So how do you get the benefits of being sarcastic while remaining un-face-punched?
The researchers looked into that too and discovered that the key is the relationship you have
with the other person. If a sarcastic exchange happens between two friends, they know the
other is joking and don’t mind. But if a stranger is sarcastic towards another, the
recipient isn’t sure if they’re being mocked and may take offense. So to practice
safe sarcasm, the researchers recommend doing it with friends. To which I say, “Duh.”
Sarcasm is my second language and comes easily to some, but it actually requires more mental
gymnastics than you may have realized. People with some forms of brain damage or autism
may have a tough time picking up on it. Anthony explains
why here.
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Are Sarcastic People Smarter?

924 Folder Collection
Jorba published on September 5, 2015
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