Being a little sarcastic can be good for you. Sarcasm can promote creative thinking processes, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University, Harvard University, and INSEAD business school.
The study, published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, finds that because sarcasm forces people to think harder about a statement to decode its actual meaning, it requires more abstract thinking (in turn helping people make more creative connections). In a series of tests, participants conducted simulated conversations where they were instructed to be either sarcastic or sincere. Afterward, those who had to express and receive sarcastic statements performed better on creativity tasks than people who were sincere or in the control group.
The downside is that sarcasm, while it might help people think outside the box, can come across as mean. So you might be firing up your creativity juices, but you might also start a fight. However, sarcasm doesn’t always have to be biting. “[U]nlike sarcasm between parties who distrust each other, sarcasm between individuals who share a trusting relationship does not generate more contempt than sincerity,” study co-author Adam Galinsky of Columbia University explains in a press release. Still, the researchers found that the person expressing sarcasm typically found it funnier than the recipient.
Oscar Wilde may have been onto something when he called sarcasm “the highest form of intelligence.”