Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Getting Sarcastic With Kids

Date:
August 9, 2007
Source:
University of Manitoba
Summary:
Melanie Glenwright's research is really fascinating. No, really. Glenwright, department of psychology, is exploring sarcasm and irony, and children's ability to grasp these important aspects of everyday communication. Or, to be more precise, children's inability. "Sarcasm is something that we don't 'get' until a certain point in our childhood stage of development, late in our primary years," says Glenwright.

Melanie Glenwright, psychology, is exploring sarcasm and irony, and children's ability to grasp these important aspects of everyday communication. Or, to be more precise, children's inability.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Manitoba

Melanie Glenwright’s research is really fascinating. No, really.

Related Articles


Glenwright, department of psychology, is exploring sarcasm and irony, and children’s ability to grasp these important aspects of everyday communication. Or, to be more precise, children’s inability.

“Sarcasm is something that we don’t ‘get’ until a certain point in our childhood stage of development, late in our primary years,” says Glenwright.

Glenwright, who has spent six years making sarcastic comments around kids, has found that children tend to be literal thinkers and their ability to perceive and process sarcasm is developed over time.

Of course, Glenwright doesn’t stand around the schoolyard trying to elicit laughs with her sarcastic wit. Her research is conducted using puppets who employ sarcasm in conversation with each other while children, aged 6 to 10, observe. Kids are then asked about the meaning and intent behind the puppets’ words.

“Kids detect sarcasm at about age 6, but don’t begin to see the intended humour until around age 10,” she explains.

But Glenwright’s work doesn’t stop at pinpointing which ages can identify sarcasm. Her research, much of which is done in collaboration with University of Calgary colleague Penny Pexman, sets out to answer specific questions, such as: Why do children have difficulty seeing the humour intended in sarcasm? And, what cognitive mechanisms and social experiences are necessary for children to understand sarcasm?

Although adults don’t think twice about why they are laughing at a sarcastic quip made by a character in a popular sitcom such as Friends, Glenwright says that the process by which we interpret and respond to sarcasm is actually quite complex.

It works something like this: when we encounter sarcasm we first process the literal meaning of the words being spoken, then we suppress an urge to respond to that literal meaning, then we look for the true intent of the words based on facial expressions, intonation and familiarity with the person speaking the words. At that point, we’ve recognized sarcasm and can respond accordingly, often with laughter or an icy stare.

Kids, on the other hand, are left wondering what the joke is.

“Younger kids think slapstick is funny, and plays on words. But not sarcasm,” says Glenwright, adding that kids often perceive sarcasm to be mean-spirited.

Glenwright’s current research involves children aged 11 and 12. Since puppets would surely induce sarcastic jibes by the older kids, Glenwright instead shows clips from youth-oriented television programs such as Hannah Montana and asks her subjects to comment on the use of sarcasm in humour.

Glenwright will also explore how children of different cultures and children with autism respond to sarcasm.

Glenwright says her research could be a boon to educators, as it helps shed light on the origins of teasing, which can turn into bullying at later stages of child development.

“Healthy classroom discussions about sarcasm could be beneficial for kids,” she says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Manitoba. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Manitoba. "Getting Sarcastic With Kids." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070803141811.htm>.
University of Manitoba. (2007, August 9). Getting Sarcastic With Kids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070803141811.htm
University of Manitoba. "Getting Sarcastic With Kids." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070803141811.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins