The Benefits(?) Of Sarcasm

At the high school where I substitute teach, an English teacher has a poster for the National Sarcasm Society. Their symbol is a jackass and their slogan is “Like We Need Your Support.”

Actually, there is a Sarcasm Society ( and there’s plenty of “National Sarcasm Society” merchandise available on I suppose this can be considered a benefit of living in a capitalist society.

But what prompted this thought train was ” The Surprising Benefits of Sarcasm” by Francesca Gino (

The article sets its tone by quoting Oscar Wilde: “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence.” Really? Most experts advise against its use as a poisonous form of communication that can ruin relationships.

But wait. There is research that suggests an unexpected benefit: greater creativity. In fact, sarcasm’s judicious use can enhance creativity on both ends: giving and receiving.

Sarcasm’s main “benefit” is exposing contradictions between intended meanings, but it is easy to misinterpret, especially in written communications. So to save friendships (or maybe your career), research suggests it’s less risky to be sarcastic toward someone you trust. If your target is someone you loathe, beware!

So where does the creativity come in? There is a contradiction between the literal and actual meanings of sarcastic expressions, which requires some abstract thinking, which is more creative. Quite simply, our brains must think creatively to construct and interpret sarcastic comments.

So it’s best to reserve your sarcastic remarks for people you know well, as long as you don’t overdo it, and (hopefully) you both will benefit. Like it’s really that hard to be sarcastic!

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