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Brainhack by Neil Pavitt

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24 Be More Sarcastic

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”

Oscar Wilde

The trouble with the quote above is, that it's only part of the quote. What Oscar Wilde actually said was, “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence.” And as a pretty sarcastic man himself, I think maybe the first part of the quote was meant sarcastically.

But for me the interesting part of the quote is that it's “the highest form of intelligence”, because understanding sarcasm actually requires many processes in the brain.

An Israeli team led by Dr Simone Shamay-Tsoory at the Haifa University compared healthy people alongside people with damaged brains and found that damage to the prefrontal lobes at the front of the brain can stop you understanding sarcasm.

She said this fitted with what is already known about the anatomy of the brain. Language areas on the left hand side of the brain interpret the literal meaning of words and the frontal lobes and the right side of the brain understand the social and emotional context.

The reason that sarcasm requires all these different parts of the brain is what makes it a powerful tool. Because being sarcastic and also listening to someone being sarcastic actually makes you more creative, according to the study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal.

A team of researchers from Insead Business School, ...

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