Sarcasm makes you smarter, academics find

Oh fantastic. Absolutely great news. Sarcasm, often derided as the lowest form of wit, actually makes people brighter and more creative. That's what academic researchers at Harvard and Columbia have just found out.

Sarcastic comments make you three times more creative in a range of tests, whether you're making the sarcastic comments or are on the receiving end of them.

According to the study, being sarcastic or trying to understand sarcastic comments, forces the brain to switch to abstract thinking, which boosts your creativity threefold. Researchers at the business schools found that participants became more creative in a range of tests, and warned that any businesses who tried to eliminate sarcasm from the workplace (of which there are sooooooo many) may see a decline in productivity and profits.

Dr Li Huang, who led the research, said: “We found that sarcasm may stimulate creativity, the generation of ideas, insights, or problem solutions that are novel and useful. As Oscar Wilde believed, sarcasm may represent a lower form of wit, but we found that it certainly catalyses a higher form of thought.”

The researchers carried out a number of studies involving over 300 men and women. Each was designed to test the effects of sarcasm on creativity.

The test

One of the experiments had participants being exposed to sarcastic or sincere comments and then asked to solve a psychological test to measure creativity. The test involved being shown a picture of several objects - a candle, a box of nails and a pack of matches - placed on a table next to a wall.

The participants are then asked how to attach the candle to the wall so that it would burn without dripping wax on the table.

Can you figure out how to do it yet? How about if I you read this statement from Sarcy Wonka:

And / or this sarcastic video:

Try and work it out now, see if the sarcasm helped.

The solution:

The solution is that you empty the nails out the box, nail the box to the wall and place the candle inside. The test measures creativity because it requires you to realise the objects all have uses other than their primary functions.

The results from the study show that 75% of people who had heard sarcastic comments came up with the right solution, compared to just 25% of people who hadn't heard any sarcastic comments. 64% of people who made a sarcastic comment themselves also got the correct solution, because we all know sarcastic people are sooooooo intelligent.

The researchers believe this is because understanding sarcasm requires understanding contradictory statements, for example someone saying "nice day we're having" whilst soaked in rain and mud.

“We have shown that creativity is enhanced following all types of sarcasm, from sarcastic anger and criticism to sarcastic compliments and banter. All forms of sarcastic exchanges, not just sarcastic anger or criticism, seem to exercise the brain more.”

So if you want to be smart, it's time to get really, really really incredibly sarcastic. That won't annoy anyone at all.

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