Science Says Sarcastic People are Actually Smarter

Once called the “highest form of intelligence”, Oscar Wilde had nothing but good to say about the value of sarcasm. Now often considered a mark of smart-asses and rude girls, the cultural opinion of sarcasm is at an all-time low. Science may have something else to say about the matter, though… Concluding more and more often that sarcasm may be a sign of greater intelligence.

Professors at the Harvard Business school, Columbia Business School, and INSEAD — a European business school — paired up for a research project studying the connection between intelligence and sarcasm. This study showed a surprising range of connections and benefits that are often overlooked:

“To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressors and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e., psychological distance) 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.”

In the study, a group of participants was provided with labels: neutral, sincere, or sarcastic. In conversations, they were told to express their labels as accurately as they could. In the groups that performed under sarcastic conditions, the participants consistently performed better on creative tasks than either of the other groups. As a conclusion, the sarcastic participants were associated with higher intelligence.

While sarcasm is often discouraged in our modern society, the researchers have a different view on it:

“We hope our research will inspire organizations and communication coaches to take a renewed look at sarcasm. Instead of discouraging workplace sarcasm completely as they have been doing, they could help educate individuals about the appropriate circumstances under which sarcasm can be used. By doing so, both the individuals involved in sarcastic conversations and the organizations they belong to would benefit creatively.”

Furthermore, a psychologist at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa also explored a study on sarcasm — examining the link between a person’s ability to relate sarcastically and their ability to relate empathically. Doctor Shamay-Tsoory’s findings showed that sarcasm is not only a linguistic exercise, but a social one… In her research, it was showed that the same areas of the brain that recognize sarcasm also recognize emotions, process language, and help to understand social cues.

The experts continue to relate the same conclusion: Sarcastic people are more creative, with larger linguistic skills and a more-developed social interest. So the next time you’re drawing issue with someone being sarcastic, think twice!

See the article that inspired this one here

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