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 April 19, 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 April 19, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers who analyzed data from over 300,000 kids and their mothers say they&apos;ve found a link between gestational diabetes and autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Family members are prerecording messages as part of a unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home in New York. The videos are trying to help victims of Alzheimer&apos;s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2015) Each week, millions of Americans take acetaminophen to dull minor aches and pains. Now researchers say it might blunt life&apos;s highs and lows, too. Video provided by Newsy
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