WASHINGTON — The ability to comprehend sarcasm depends upon a carefully orchestrated sequence of complex cognitive skills based in specific parts of the brain.
New research details an “anatomy of sarcasm” that explains how the mind puts sharp-tongued words into context. The findings appear in the May issue of Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The Israeli psychologists who conducted the research explain that for sarcasm to score, listeners must grasp the speaker’s intentions in the context of the situation. This calls for sophisticated social thinking and “theory of mind,” or whether we understand that everyone thinks different thoughts. As an example of what happens when “theory of mind” is limited or missing, autistic children have problems interpreting irony, the more general category of social communication into which sarcasm falls.
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