Do you have a biting sense of humor, with a quick, dry response ready at all times? Do you like using irony to convey contempt for something? Then there’s another word to describe you besides sarcastic: intelligent.
In a series of studies conducted by the fine folks at Harvard Business School, it was found that not only did the delivery of sarcasm increase creativity, but so did being on the receiving end, because it increased abstract thinking. They dubbed sarcasm “the highest form of intelligence”.
The study wasn’t all roses. In the first of four studies researchers found that while sarcasm did increase creativity, it also increased conflict.
In the third study, researchers found that “sarcasm’s effect on creativity for both parties was mediated by abstract thinking and generalizes across different forms of sarcasm.” In other words, the positive effects of sarcasm are brought about by the increase in abstract thinking, and that was true across the gamut of different types of sarcasm.
According to the fourth and final study, researchers found that sarcasm-related conflict was reduced when there was trust between participants. Basically, sarcasm with your friends and trusted colleagues is ok, but with someone you barely know or a co-worker you don’t get along with it’s probably a bad idea.
So what’s the lesson here? Sarcasm can be great tool for creativity, but it’s a double-edged sword. If you’re using sarcasm with someone with whom you have less of a trusted bond, you might end with more of a negative situation than you bargained for.