We humans have the curious habit of communicate using words that seem independent of the actual meaning of sentences. All poetry is a clear example of this, but our way of playing with language goes far beyond moments of artistic inspiration. All of our conversations with our family, friends or coworkers are full of moments when what we want to say and what we say really seem to go in opposite directions. In fact, there are entire personalities who are forged in such contradictions.
the sarcasm this is another of the forms in which this symbolic shock is revealed. When a message is issued that incorporates a fair amount of sarcasm, the exact opposite of what is being said is signed. And it is precisely this gap that makes the secret burlesque attitude a good source of mental gymnastics to train our creativity, according to some studies.
While sending a message in which the information to be transmitted is perfectly encoded in a series of signs, which electronic systems do, sending any other type of message means demanding more of the brain, because it must judge the contextual elements and other variables. which go far beyond the linguistic domain. Use of sarcasm, both to produce it and to interpret it, it’s about imagining something and at the same time its opposite, And this poses a challenge to our thought organ.
The human brain under the effects of sarcasm
Knowing whether someone is sarcastic or not means that several parts of the brain are working together to mix up many possibilities and come to a final agreement. In this way, while the areas of the tongue in the left hemisphere of the brain process the literal information words that were recorded while other areas of the right hemisphere and frontal lobes are tasked with analyzing the social context in which the message and the emotional charge associated with it have been captured.
Through this parallel processing, it is possible to detect the contradiction between the literalness and the intentionality of the same message, and for this reason, most people are not too bad to recognize the sarcasm when we are present.
However, putting so many parts of the brain to work gives a degree of demand that we don’t face when processing literal messages. Interpreting sarcasm involves developing some sort of theory of mind to put yourself in another’s shoes and deduce the meaning of their words, and producing messages with irony means being skilled at conveying ideas by saying exactly the right thing. opposite. This is what has led some researchers to believe that people skilled in the art of sarcasm might practice certain creativity-related tasks better simply by training their brains without realizing it. ‘NOT.
A little mental training in creativity
Reinforce this idea, a group of researchers conducted in 2011 a series of experiments in which exposure to sarcastic speech improved people’s performance in tasks related to creativity..
In this research, volunteers heard a recorded message on the customer service phone line used by a business. In this audio track, a person could be heard complaining about the time slot during which the company was making deliveries. However, not all participants heard the same message. Some people could hear a message in which the complaint was expressed directly, aggressively and with negative intonation. Others heard a complaint in an ironic tone, with negative intonation but positive language. A third group of volunteers heard a complaint in neutral language and in a tone devoid of emotion.
After experiencing this, participants were asked to solve a number of problems, some of which required lateral thinking and creativity and others being analytical in nature. People who heard the complaints in an aggressive tone moved slightly better than others at solving analytical tasks, but they were the ones who did the worst in tasks that required creativity. It was the volunteers who heard the complaint sarcastically. they stood out with significantly better scores on the creative questions.
Apparently, people whose brains had to work to interpret sarcastic speech had therefore become more capable of solving tasks whose resolution depends on the integration of various information that is not directly related to the instructions to be followed. This way, someone who has been exposed to irony can stand out in lateral thinking by finding new relationships between seemingly distant ideas.
Aim for new research
Clearly, more research is still needed to see if the effects of this sarcasm treatment mental training hold over time to a greater or lesser extent or depend on how often people send sarcastic messages. It is possible that sarcastic people are more creative, or we can see that everyone also improves our ability to think creatively after being exposed to a ration of irony.
Anyway, it’s not hard to intuitively find a relationship between sarcasm and creativity. The idea of a brain accustomed to working on the one hand with literal elements and on the other hand with emotional and contextual aspects is a powerful image, easily associated with the world of people who work to produce art, trying to express the feelings they are going. beyond the technique and elements used and reflect on the context in which their work will be exhibited. Although I’m sure you’ve noticed it already.
- Miron-Spektor, E. Efrat-Teister, D., Rafaeli, A., Schwarz Cohen, O. (2011). Another person’s anger causes people to work harder and not be smarter: the effect of observing anger and sarcasm on creative and analytical thinking. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96 (5), pages 1065-1075.
- Shamay-Tsoori, SG and Tomer, R. (2005). The neuroanatomical basis for understanding sarcasm and its relationship to social cognition. Neuropsychology, 19 (3), pages 288-300.