I'm *so* sorry my sarcasm makes me more creative

A new study shows people who use sarcasm have increased creativity, but are the benefits contagious? 


If you grew up being told you have a “smart mouth," your parents may have been on to something. A study by Harvard University and Columbia University shows a link between sarcasm and creativity. Shocking. Researchers interacted with three groups of people who expressed themselves sarcastically, earnestly, and neutrally.

They found that the sarcastic group showed “enhanced creativity" when asked to perform creative tasks, likely because both promote abstract thinking. Responding in a way that is not straightforward or literal requires one to think outside of what is expected, the same skill set used when using creativity to create art or problem solve. The downside? If you are expressing sarcasm to someone who doesn't trust you, there's a greater chance of creating conflict. Oh so that's why Gandhi was always throwing shade to the British Empire with his hilarious throwdowns. Sarcasm can heighten conflict! Who knew?

Sarcasm requires a certain amount of intelligence from both the sender and receiver. The person making the sarcastic statement is thinking in a non-literal way and can read the social cues to know whether or not the person they are talking to will get it. The receiver has to make sense of what was said — read the tone; read the facial expressions; realize the person means the opposite; and react accordingly. It's a high form of intelligence, as it requires both cerebral and social finesse. That's why sarcasm over text or email is so often misunderstood, and why sarcasm from strangers leads to conflict: We can't read you well enough to know what you mean.

Sarcasm isn't just about being funny or off-kilter; it's a way of helping you see your own truth. If I say something that is the opposite of what I mean as a way of saying what I think is true, it tends to make you ask what you think is true.

John Lennon is a great example of a creative, sarcastic, and brilliant thinker. His abstract thinking led to creative innovations both fantastic ("Tomorrow Never Knows") and questionable experiments ("Revolution 9"), and sarcasm that instigated conflict with critics, the American public, and the Nixon-era FBI. Lennon used humor to point to truth, the way great comedians often do (a phenomena I've previously written about). Sarcasm isn't just about being funny or off-kilter; it's a way of helping you see your own truth. If I say something that is the opposite of what I mean as a way of saying what I think is true, it tends to make you ask what you think is true. As the study pointed out, even those on the receiving end of the humorous remarks saw spikes in their creativity. Hearing other's divergent thinking leads us to have our own divergent thinking, our own creativity, our own quest for truth.

So if you're not funny, hang out with funny people. You'll be more creative for it. As a great Kids in the Hall sketch once pointed out, sarcastic people are soooo lonely. And if you are prone to sarcasm, be careful about how you wield this double-edged sword. Seriously.

Stephen Fry tells of when a Mormon audience didn't appreciate a sarcastic remark about heaven. He was making a joke, but they clearly didn't see the humor in it.

Should you defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis?

Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
  • In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Keep reading Show less

It’s just a sheet of glass. With AI.

A new paradigm for machine vision has just been demonstrated.

Image source: aleknext/Shutterstock
Technology & Innovation
  • Scientists have invented a way for a sheet of glass to perform neural computing.
  • The glass uses light patterns to identify images without a computer or power.
  • It's image recognition at the speed of light.
Keep reading Show less

New alternative to Trump's wall would create jobs, renewable energy, and increase border security

A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Jorge Castillo Quiñones
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
  • The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
  • It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Keep reading Show less

Elon Musk’s Neuralink unveils device to connect your brain to a smartphone

"A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain," Musk said, referring to tests of the device.

Neuralink
Technology & Innovation
  • Neuralink seeks to build a brain-machine interface that would connect human brains with computers.
  • No tests have been performed in humans, but the company hopes to obtain FDA approval and begin human trials in 2020.
  • Musk said the technology essentially provides humans the option of "merging with AI."
Keep reading Show less