It turns out that there might be some surprising benefits of making sarcastic remarks. Being sarcastic can lead to greater creativity, for both those on the giving and receiving ends of sarcasm. Indeed, when used in moderation, sarcasm can lead people to think outside the box more often.
However, scientists are also warning people to not get carried away. Sarcasm can hurt others, and it can damage relationships. While a playful jab might be okay here and there, excessive use of sarcasm can be destructive.
Sarcasm is one of the most common forms of verbal irony. It is often used to humorously express lightly-disguised disapproval or criticism. For instance, a boss catching an employee sleeping on the job might say something like “don’t work so hard”.
Sarcasm can often make a statement sound more critical. In studies, participants often perceived sarcastic statements to be more condemning than literal statements. People are often more hurt from sarcastic statements than direct comments or criticisms. Many people consider sarcasm to be downright impolite. Sarcasm can also be easily misinterpreted, especially when it is sent through nonverbal means, such as emails or text messages.
That being said, other studies have also shown the creative benefit of sarcasm. One study had some participants act out sarcasm, while other participants acted out sincere communication. In subsequent tests of creativity, the participants who acted out sarcasm scored considerably higher. It is believed that the cognitive task of initiating and delivering a sarcastic comment improves the creativity of both the deliverer and the recipient.
However, the recipient only managed to improve their creativity when they were able to successfully identify the comment as being sarcastic. If the recipient took the message for its literal meaning, no improvement occurred.
When making sarcastic comments, the brain must think clearly and creatively to overcome the contradiction between literal and actual meanings. The same is true for being able to properly understand sarcasm. This process is facilitated by abstract thinking, which strengthens creativeness.
So while some healthy sarcasm might be a good thing every now and then, be sure to not get carried away with the practice. Because everyone totally loves people who are sarcastic all the time.