5 Benefits of Sarcasm (Scientists Say)

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Many people consider themselves fluent in sarcasm – and if you can find a friend who speaks your language, they’re sure to be one for life. And while some people don’t appreciate the method of communication (losers), people who enjoy it – or depend on it to prevent them from committing murder – now have scientific reasons to continue.

5 reasons, in fact.

5. Sarcasm could make you appear more confident at work.

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A 2016 paper claimed that coworkers with good zingers in response to workplace chatter were perceived as having more competence and confidence than their simply jovial peers.

“The successful use of humor – telling jokes that are funny and appropriate – can raise your status because it makes you appear more confident and more competent,” they wrote in their publication. “Confidence and competence are two of the key traits that determine whether we give someone status. The reason for this is because we want the individuals who have influence in a group to be those who are capable of leading it.”

And humor reinforces those traits.

“Before we tell a joke, especially to people we do not know well, it’s difficult to know with certainty if our audience will find it funny and appropriate. If they find it unfunny and inappropriate, they will think that we lack competence and we will lose status. Given that humor is risky, telling a joke signals confidence.”

4. Sarcasm can make for strong social bonding.

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Sharing a joke strengthens our bonds with other people.

“Sarcasm improves social bonding between the speaker and the addressee. Sarcasm can also be used to convey humor and jocularity, which can improve mood both in the speaker and addressee,” explains associate professor Melanie Glenwright.

3. Sarcasm can improve creativity.

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A 2015 paper made the case that sarcasm can facilitate creative thinking. According to lead author Li Huang,

“This is because both sarcasm construction and sarcasm interpretation are conducive to abstract thinking, a key cognitive precursor to creative thinking. In this way, to construct or interpret sarcasm is to traverse the psychological distance between the stated and the intended meaning through abstract thinking.”

2. Sarcasm can make you appear more intelligent.

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Sarcasm and humor both require creative thinking that’s rapidly deployed to analyze a situation, and a clever retort could increase people’s opinions of your intellect.

“Saying something that is funny and appropriate is difficult. It requires being able to recognize an opportunity for humor – ‘did someone just say something I know a funny response for’ – [and] being able to quickly generate or recall a funny response and being able to predict how the audience is going to respond. On top of those things, delivery and timing also matter….We tend to view people who manage to successfully pull off all of these things as being more intelligent, and we see that reflected in the way we refer to them.”

1. Sarcasm can make criticisms go down a bit easier.

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A 2016 paper co-authored by Melanie Glenwright looked at how children and adults interpreted sarcastic commentary and found that even criticism can be softened by a well-timed amusing remark.

“The use of indirect language allows the speaker to criticize the addressee indirectly which is perceived as more polite than a direct, literal insult. Speakers may use sarcasm to deliver insults in professional or social settings here they were to criticize another person in a less-harsh manner.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take this advice to heart. For science.

Are you a fan of sarcasm, too? Keep it up, I say!