Handy Guide to Understanding Sarcasm

by F.


According to the BBC’s website,

Dr Simone Shamay-Tsoory and colleagues studied 25 people with prefrontal lobe damage, 16 with damage to the posterior lobe of the brain and 17 healthy volunteers.

They played the study participants tape-recorded stories, some sarcastic and some neutral.

An example of sarcasm was “Joe came to work, and instead of beginning to work, he sat down to rest. His boss noticed and said to Joe ‘don’t work too hard.'”

In fact, what Joe’s boss actually meant by his comment was “you are a slacker”.

But… if he meant “you are a slacker,” why did he say “don’t work too hard”? Anyway…

In the neutral version Joe came to work and began work immediately. His boss made the same “don’t work too hard” comment, but this time, he actually meant that Joe was a hard worker.

The volunteers who had damage to their prefrontal lobes were unable to correctly interpret the sarcastic story, while all of the other participants could.

So, remember: if you’re having trouble getting sarcasm at the office, check your right ventromedial prefontal cortex. If you find it’s not working, spray a little Gumout carburetor cleaner in there, making sure to let it soak in between the synapses.

If your co-worker, spouse, or pet doesn’t understand your sarcasm, print out the handy chart above (preferably, in color) and paste it somewhere conspicuous. It may help.