Sarcastic people are more creative thinkers, says study
What do Liz Lemon, Chandler Bing, Dr House and Sheldon Cooper all have in common? Well, they're all characters in TV shows that provide comical relief for viewers. But they're funny not in a slapstick, "Oh I'm so silly everyone laugh at me" kind of way, but rather in a way where we are laughing with these characters. They have a sarcastic sense of humor, telling jokes that are intelligent and somehow, more mature.
A really interesting study on sarcasm (no, really) has investigated creative thinking between people who communicate with sarcasm and those who do not. Researchers from Harvard, Columbia and the European business school INSEAD created a research environment where participants simulated conversations with varying levels of sarcasm.
People taking part in the experience were asked to say something sarcastic or sincere and then later listened to comments that were either sarcastic or sincere. They also had neutral conversations between each other.
Then, subjects had to recall a time when they heard something sarcastic, sincere or neutral, and finally think of a joke that had a sarcastic, sincere or neutral punchline.
After simulating conversations and doing the recall tests, each participant completed three different creativity tasks, and so came the results. The researchers were able to confidently conclude that "sarcasm lead to greater creativity because they activate abstract thinking".
Thinking abstractly helps people distinguish what is meant literally and what is meant figuratively in sarcasm, and that ultimately leads to more creativity. The researchers are obviously stoked with their findings, giving the study the study a glowing title of "The highest form of intelligence: Sarcasm increases creativity for both expressers and recipients".
But the study also found that sarcasm is an instigator of conflict, which is not surprising given that sarcasm is defined as "the use of irony to mock or convey contempt".
People who don't "get" sarcasm are likely to interpret a sarcastic comment as real contempt and mockery. Chances are if you don't know or trust the person saying something sarcastically, conflict will be more likely, says the study.
The results of the study are not hard to believe. I mean, Liz Lemon writes and produces television shows. Chandler ends up a copywriter at an ad agency (after whatever the heck his previous job was).
House was a pretty good doctor who employed some, err... creative ways of curing patients. And Sheldon genetically modified luminous fish, created his own board game Fun With Physics as well as his show Fun With Flags.
Want more proof? Well, sarcasm is what esteemed meme lords thrive on:
We find their posts funny because the humour is usually a little dark and self-deprecating, but also because they're still intelligent. Sarcastic jokes are the perfect blend of smart, bitter and playful.
That sarcasm is a catalyst for creativity is good news for those of you fluent in mockery who get chided by people for being rude or spiteful. (But to be fair, those people probably just need to loosen up a little).
You mightn't put swag on your resume, but maybe now you'll reconsider adding "sarcasm" to your list of skills.