Publication details [#19627168]

Zhu, Ning and Zhenlin Wang. 2020. The paradox of sarcasm: Theory of mind and sarcasm use in adults. Personality and Individual Differences 163.
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Article in journal
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While there is evidence suggesting that sarcasm comprehension is positively associated with the theory of mind (ToM), it remains unclear whether ToM ability predicts sarcasm use in any way. A random sample of 171 undergraduate students participated in an open-ended ToM measure, namely the social faux pas stories, and a purpose-designed multiple-choice sarcasm use tendency task. Results showed that participants were less likely to use sarcasm compared to literal criticism. They were more likely to use sarcasm when being personally offended, and with friends. Not only were males more likely to use sarcasm than females, they were also more likely to be on the receiving end of it, whereas female participants were less likely to use sarcasm, especially with female addresses. Most importantly, ToM ability negatively correlated with sarcasm use in all contexts; however, individuals with high-level ToM ability showed slightly elevated tendency towards using sarcasm in delicate contexts. Instead of using sarcasm aggressively as those with low-level ToM, people with high-level ToM might use sarcasm wisely in safe context where the addressee is less likely to be provoked to diffuse social tension.