Dr. Shamay-Tsoory further explained that “understanding other people’s state of mind and emotions is related to our ability to understand sarcasm.”
Sarcasm seems to exercise the brain more than sincere statements do. Scientists who have monitored the electrical activity of the brains of test subjects exposed to sarcastic statements have found that brains have to work harder to understand sarcasm. There is actually a three-stage neural pathway in our brains that enables us to understand irony.
First, the language center in the brain’s left hemisphere interprets the literal meaning of words. Next, the frontal lobes and right hemisphere process the speaker’s intention and check for contradictions between the literal meaning and the social and emotional context. Finally, the right ventromedial prefrontal cortex – our sarcasm meter – makes a decision based on our social and emotional knowledge of the situation.
As Richard Chin of Smithsonian Magazine explains, sarcasm requires a series of “mental gymnastics.” Sarcastic, satirical or ironic statements all compel the brain to “think beyond the literal meaning of the words and understand that the speaker may be thinking of something entirely different.” Studies have shown that exposure to sarcasm enhances creative problem-solving. Thus, over time, this increased bulk of cognitive-expenditure doesn’t go to waste. Chin describes active sarcasm use as a means of “mental exercise.” Just like training your muscles, if you do 50 push-ups a day, over time, your arms are bound to be toned. So sarcasm, as a form of “mental exercise,” or “mental gymnastics” functions the same way. Over time, that “extra work” brought forth by sarcasm leaves our brains toned, too.
Just think of all of the genius children our education system could be turned out if they would just stop punishing them for their, “High Intelligence.”