What’s sarcasm got to do with it? Everything, at least according to a new study in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. When someone is sarcastic, the recipient has to analyze what was just said more so than a non-sarcastic comment. Several tests were done by Francesca Gino (Harvard Business School), Li Huang (INSEAD, the European business school), and Adam Galinsky (the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business at Columbia Business School). In the scenarios, people had to be sincere, sarcastic, or neutral. Those who said and heard the sarcastic things did better on creative-type tasks.
“This suggests that sarcasm has the potential to catalyze creativity in everyone. That being said, although not the focus of our research, it is possible that naturally creative people are also more likely to use sarcasm, making it an outcome instead of [a] cause in this relationship.” –Galinsky
Just think about your favorite TV sitcom. Sarcasm (and creativity) central, right?
However, don’t go practicing sarcasm on just anybody, for not everyone responds to it well. (I’m sure we can all recall when we’ve said something (seemingly hysterical and witty!) that didn’t go over well with others.)
“To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressors and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e., psychological distance) between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking.” –Gino (as told to the Harvard Gazette)
“…Additionally, for the first time, our research proposed and has shown that to minimize the relational cost while still benefiting creatively, sarcasm is better used between people who have a trusting relationship.” –Gino
There you have it. Go practice your sarcasm on someone (but if they don’t get it, don’t blame us!).
If you’re feeling stumped, here’s some inspiration for you: