As a freshman at Penn State, I’ve been thrown into a big pond with a lot of fish. That being said, I’ve introduced myself countless times to countless people, usually having the conversation geared to the most generic “freshman” questions; “where are you from”? and “what’s your major”? After being introduced to numerous people, I have gathered first impressions, good and bad alike. One particular night, when I was out with my roommates, I was introduced to a new person. After some small talk, I became more comfortable with the conversation. Soon enough, he stopped me in the middle of my sentence and yelled “You’re so sassy, WOW”! Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve been described as highly sarcastic or sassy. I’ve been told by multiple people: friends, family, even strangers (as this instance described) that I seemingly respond to questions or humor in a highly ironic manner. For as long as I know, I’ve been highly sarcastic. My personal belief is that it stems from my own personality, and simply who I am as a person. I can also attest to the fact that it doubles as a defense mechanism at times, especially when I’m in a new environment or trying to “lighten the mood”. Although I fully embrace my own sarcasm and witty humor, I’ve always wondered: where does sarcasm stem from? Why is my brain geared towards making sarcastic remarks, even in the most arbitrary times?
According to Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal, sarcasm does have a place in everyday conversation, just in small doses. While sarcasm can be seen as lighthearted humor, it can often lead to conflict if the parties involved are not close with each other or do not possess a personal relationship. Often times, sarcasm is used to deflate negative conversation or uncomfortable interactions. People insert witty remarks into the conversation to lighten the mood and ensure the carefree nature of the interaction. While sarcasm can change the mood of conversation from tense to playful, it can also be used as a means of flirtation or teasing at another individual to show affection and desire. Additionally, the hypothesis of whether or not people who utilize sarcasm are more intelligent than those who do not has been prevalent in research today. A study published in the journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes supports the idea that people who generally use sarcasm appear to be increasingly more intelligent and creative in their process of thinking compared to those who do not. Those participating in the study were randomly assigned to three groups: neutral, sarcastic, and sincere conditions. Each group was to recall an incident in which they acted neutrally, sarcastic, or sincere. Later on, the groups were given a cognitive task to perform which utilized creativity and thinking outside the box. The study also exemplified the role of sarcasm in personal interactions and the degree of comfortability that it brings to the conversation depending on the relationships between the individuals. People who have closer personal relationships tend to have more positive attitudes towards the use of sarcasm in social interactions and also avoid any means of conflict.
Richard Chin from The Smithsonian makes a solid point about the duality of sarcasm. While it can definitely soften the blow of insults, petty banter, and criticism, sarcasm proves to be even more demeaning than criticism at certain times. The very act of sarcasm can elicit negative connotation, like the false perception of superiority towards another person. Sarcasm has the ability to be taken the wrong way, which will ultimately result in hurt feelings and an even more uncomfortable interaction. Nowadays, kids are becoming more exposed to incidences of sarcasm in their interactions and relationships with their peers. Even more so, researchers are jumping at the conclusion that children who are unable to recognize sarcastic remarks at the young age of 5 may be at risk for brain disease. Now, this seems a little overdramatic, don’t you think? This just goes to show the overriding role that sarcasm has taken in our society and it’s effect on our youth, interpersonal relationships, and everyday conversation.