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STUDY: Men find it difficult to detect sarcasm

Researchers at Canada’s McGill University have determined that when it comes to sarcasm, men have a harder time than women detecting when it is being used.

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They are also trying to understand why people suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and those with autism spectrum disorder have difficulties distinguishing whether a person is being truthful or is telling a white lie. To accomplish this, researchers built a video library composed of short, scripted scenes. Each scene shows two people, of varying relationships towards each another, interacting in various social situations.

They then showed the videos to a group of participants and asked them to determine if the people in the video were joking or were being sincere. The participants could normally tell when the characters were being truthful and when they were kidding around, but people found that things got trickier when sarcasm was involved. Surprisingly, they also found that men are fairly poor at detecting sarcasm. It was only when the scenes involved two friends that the men easily detected a sarcastic tone.

The findings suggest that telling a truth from a lie doesn’t only involve analyzing the tone of voice, but also involves correctly interpreting facial expressions and physical cues. The level of closeness or the kind of relationship between two people interacting also gives hints on when people are saying something sincere or are being sarcastic.

“…sarcasm and white lies seem to go against a basic understanding of what ‘should’ be happening in conversation. This may be part of what makes them so difficult to recognize for some,” explained Kathrin Rothermich of McGill University’s School of Communication Disorders.

Written by Bambi Eloriaga-Amago

Bambi is a freelance writer/editor who is a big fan of Marvel, Star Wars, and all things geeky. Aside from her geek obsessions, she's also an aspiring cat lady with three cats in her household. She's also a devoted mom and wife.

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