The use of sarcasm could make us more creative
We humans have the curious habit of communicate using words that seem to be independent of the real meaning of the sentences . Any poetry in a clear example of this, but our way of playing with language goes far beyond moments of artistic inspiration. Any of our conversations with family members, friends or co-workers is plagued with times when what we want to say and what we say really seems to go in opposite directions. In fact, there are entire personalities that are forged in this type of contradictions.
The sarcasm it is another of the forms under which this symbolic shock is revealed. When a message that incorporates a good amount of sarcasm is issued, it is signing exactly the opposite of what is said. And it is precisely this discrepancy that makes the disguised burlesque attitude a good source of mental gymnastics to train our creativity, according to some studies.
While issuing a message in which the information to be transmitted is encoded perfectly in a series of signs, which is what electronic systems do, emitting any other type of message supposes to demand more from the brain, since it has to judge elements contextual and other variables that go far beyond the linguistic level. Use sarcasm, both to produce it and to interpret it, it involves imagining something and at the same time its opposite , and that supposes a challenge for our organ of thought.
The human brain under the effects of sarcasm
Knowing if someone is being sarcastic or does not mean that several parts of the brain work together considering many possibilities and reaching a final agreement. In this way, while the language areas of the left hemisphere of the brain process the literal information of the words that have been registered while other areas of the right hemisphere and the frontal lobes are responsible for analyzing the Social context in which the message and the emotional charge associated with it have been collected.
Thanks to this parallel processing, it is possible to detect the contradiction between literality and intentionality of the same message, and for this reason most people are not overly wrong to recognize sarcasm when it is presented to us.
However, putting so many parts of the brain to work involves a degree of exigency that we do not face when processing literal messages. Interpreting pieces of sarcasm implies developing a kind of theory of mind to put oneself in the place of the other and infer the meaning of their words, and produce messages with irony is supposed to be able to convey ideas saying exactly the opposite. This is what has made some researchers think that people versed in the art of sarcasm could perform better for certain tasks related to creativity for the simple fact of having been training their brain without realizing it.
A small mental training in creativity
Reinforcing this idea, a group of researchers conducted in the year 2011 a series of experiments in which it was proved how exposure to a speech with touches of sarcasm improves the performance of people in tasks related to creativity .
In this investigation, the volunteers heard a message recorded on the customer service line used by a company. On this audio track, a person could be heard complaining about the time slot during which the company made the 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 listened to a complaint in an ironic key, with negative intonation but positive language. A third group of volunteers heard a complaint with neutral language and a voice devoid of emotionality.
After experiencing this, the participants were asked to solve a series of problems, some of which required lateral thinking and creativity and others being analytical in nature. The people who had heard the complaints in an aggressive tone performed slightly better than the rest in the resolution of the analytical tasks, but they were the ones that did worse in the tasks that required creativity. It was the volunteers who had heard the complaint in a sarcastic tone that stood out with significantly better scores on creative problems .
Apparently, people whose brain had to work to interpret a sarcastic speech had become for this reason more able to solve tasks whose resolution depends on integrating varied information that is not directly related to the instructions to follow.In this way, someone who has been exposed to irony can stand out in lateral thinking by finding new relationships between ideas apparently far apart.
Pointing towards new research
It is clear that it is still necessary to do more research to see if the effects of this mental training from the processing of sarcasm are maintained more or less in time or if they depend on the frequency with which people emit sarcastic messages. It is possible that sarcastic people are more creative, or it may be that all people see our ability to think creatively improve equally after being exposed to a ration of irony.
In any case, It is not difficult 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 with emotional and contextual aspects is a powerful image, easily associated to the world of people who work producing art, trying to express sensations that go beyond the technique and the elements used and that think in the context in which his work will be exposed. Although surely you had already realized that.
- Miron-Spektor, E. Efrat-Teister, D., Rafaeli, A., Schwarz Cohen, O. (2011). Other's anger makes people work harder not smarter: The effect of observing anger and sarcasm on creative and analytic thinking. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96 (5), pp. 1065-1075.
- Shamay-Tsoori, S. G. and Tomer, R. (2005). The Neuroanatomical Basis of Understanding Sarcasm and Its Relationship to Social Cognition. Neuropsychology, 19 (3), pp. 288-300.