Publication details [#7772]

McDonald, Skye. 2000. Neuropsychological studies of sarcasm. Metaphor and Symbol 15 (1-2) : 85–98. 14 pp.


Discussions concerning the processes underlying the comprehension of sarcasm can be facilitated by research into brain-damaged participants. Acquired brain damage impairs certain cognitive processes, leaving others intact. The finding that patients with damage to the right hemisphere (RH) and patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) affecting frontal lobe function both find it difficult to comprehend sarcasm provides the opportunity to determine what aspects of the process they find difficult and what inferences are particularly problematic. RH patients have trouble processing information about the emotional state, intentions, and beliefs of the speaker. TBI patients' ability to understand sarcasm is independent of their ability to comprehend emotional state. They also find counterfactual inferences relatively straightforward. In contrast, they, too, appear to have trouble interpreting a speaker's intentions. The implications of these findings for theoretical discussions of the comprehension of sarcasm are briefly discussed. (Skye McDonald)