Sarcasm and Creativity the Surprising Link


“Sarcasm isn’t an attitude. It’s an art.” ― Michelle Lee Author

Colour me shocked – research has found sarcasm boosts creativity. Do we really need research to tell us what we, intuitively, already know? The answer is clearly yes because we have been cautioned against using sarcasm – lest it may offend.

But let’s face it, it takes a clever wit to point out shortcomings in a humorous way and it takes self-deprecation to see the truth without taking offence. Can you imagine how much better it would be if we encouraged sarcasm as a way of defusing situations instead of discouraging it?

Sarcasm takes Creativity

Sarcasm is the art of exposing contradictions with irony. We say one thing but use inflection to infer quite a different meaning – often the opposite. Like teasing, it can be cruel, but it can also be a gentle way reframing the situation to illicit new understanding. It shocks you into seeing the circumstances differently.

How does sarcasm enhance creativity?

It acts like a warm-up or a stretch before running on the field before the game. To interpret a sarcastic remark, the brain must jump through mental hoops with different parts working together to process the abstraction. No surprises then, when the mind is already primed for interpreting ambiguous meanings, that people exposed to sarcasm think more creatively. It’s like they have been shaken out of their stupor of normal, literal thinking and reminded that there are many interpretations available.

Do you want to think more clearly and creatively?

Consider sarcasm with a few caveats. Use it mainly to take the mickey out of yourself. This provides the creative reframing without people seeing it as an attack. This also promotes trust, another fundamental creative behaviour. Use it with good intent, to open up possibilities rather than as a covert attack and make it about the situation rather than the person wherever possible. Use cleverly and carefully sarcasm is a great brain primer for creative thinking.