Study finds about the mental acrobatics of a satirical one-liner. What if someone told you that if you are being sarcastic it is a sign of your most powerful expressive tools. Probably, your reaction to that would be yeah right!.
We’re all familiar with Oscar Wilde’s quip that “sarcasm is the weakest kind of humor,” but we often overlook the fact that the legendary wordsmith quickly
qualified his remark with “but the finest form of intelligence.” Parents and instructors of teens may find it difficult to under
stand that this phonetic oddity is a sign of a creative and flexible mind.
However, it is precisely what psychologists and neuroscientists have argued. They discovered that sarcasm demands more intellectual capacity than literal
remarks because it forces the brain to jump through several hoops to arrive at a valid understanding. Although it’s sometimes regarded as childish snark, sarcasm is really a sign of maturity, as it takes a child’s developing brain years to completely comprehend and perfect it.
The mental exertion is rewarded. Sarcasm helps us to add subtlety to our encounters, cushioning the punches of our insults or teasing a compliment with a humorous taunt. There’s even evidence that it might help us be more creative and express unpleasant feelings when we’re sad.
Pexman is so persuaded of the value of sarcasm that she has begun developing training programmes for those who lack a well-developed sense of sarcastic irony.
In a typical study, a youngster may see a figure named Jane who is attempting to paint a rose but fails miserably. “You’re a fantastic painter,” the puppet’s
pal Anne remarks. Or they may see a figure named Sam weeding the garden — and completing the task fast. “You’re a terrible gardener,” his pal Bob comments.
Children under the age of five, in general, are unable to discern the sarcasm in these statements and prefer to accept them seriously. Even once
they’ve realized that the words are concealing some form of secret meaning, they may fail to grasp subtleties.
(They may believe, for example, that someone is simply lying.)
Last but not least is a comprehension of sarcasm’s function in comedy as a sort of teasing. “That develops especially late – at approximately nine or ten years of life on average,” Pexman explains.
Other aspects may include idiomatic phrases, the ability to detect minor vocal signals that indicate sarcasm, and a grasp of the settings in which
sarcasm is or is not anticipated. This can only be obtained by significant experience in social situations. “There are all these elements that a youngster
has to put together, but none of them are adequate on their own to grasp sarcasm,” Pexman explains.
Her most recent research has found that a child’s home environment has a major impact on their comprehension and application of sarcasm. If their parents
use sarcasm, their children are considerably more likely to develop it as well.
“By the age of four, youngsters gain the ability to take another person’s perspective and recognise that the belief someone may hold in their head is
different from their own,” Pexman adds. Sarcasm is difficult to grasp because the kid must understand both the speaker’s true belief and how they mean
their remarks to be received by the other person – a two-step process that takes time for a youngster to learn.
(In general, youngsters under the age of seven have difficulty holding two potentially contradictory thoughts in their minds.
Many youngsters have mastered these complicated talents by the time they reach their adolescence, and it is somewhat unsurprising that they
subsequently love experimenting with them and testing their impact on others.