Sarcasm is a wonderful thing. It’s also a horrible thing.

If it’s pulled off and received well, sarcasm can be a beautiful bonding experience for like-minded people. On the other hand, if the delivery is awkward and no one gets it, you end up looking like a jackass.

I’ve been on both ends of poorly executed sarcasm. I’ve been the one to come across like the jackass, and I’ve also been the one to completely miss a sarcastic tone. Nothing is worse than the awkward “I was being sarcastic” explanation. Well, maybe some things but that’s another debate. Seriously, misunderstood sarcasm is painful.

Some people are good at sarcasm, and some people aren’t. Why is this?

Apparently it has to do with creativity. A recent study by psychologists from Harvard, Columbia, and INSEAD argues that sarcasm in a conversation can spur creative thinking.

One of the experiments found what we already know: sarcasm can cause conflict in a conversation. Again, poorly executed sarcasm is the worst.

But another experiment found that people who engaged in a sarcastic conversation later demonstrated more abstract thinking than people who engaged in a sincere conversation.

After reading the results I completely agree. Sarcasm demonstrates a different way of thinking, and it usually plays on “the obvious”. Here’s an example:

“Oh my god, is that the new iPhone 6s?”

*asks Subject 1 as they point directly at the very obvious new iPhone 6s*

“No, its my grandma’s homemade pumpkin pie.”

*answers Subject 2 sarcastically*

This isn’t the best example of sarcasm, but now that grandma’s homemade pumpkin pie has been introduced to the conversation, both Subject 1 and 2 have more ideas to ponder. Not only can the conversation continue on track with the iPhone 6s, now the wonderful concept of delicious homemade desserts is also available.

Sarcasm not only makes people re-think their painfully obvious questions/comments, it can open their mind’s up to a less concrete way of thinking.

I’m a pretty sarcastic person, but I’ve never thought of it as a “mind-opening” exercise before today. Honestly, sometimes I feel bad for using sarcasm because it can be pretty mean. But in the spirit of creativity, now I finally have an excuse to ramp up the sarcasm.


The highest form of intelligence: Sarcasm increases creativity for both expressers and recipients