Date of Award
Stephanie E. Miller
Research has identified a developmental progression of sarcasm understanding, stating that children get better at understanding sarcasm as they get older, though adults are still not perfect at reliably detecting sarcasm. This may be related to the cues present (e.g., story context, verbal cues, and facial expressions). Research has primarily focused on verbal cues, specifically exaggerated or “dripping” intonation, in child and adult populations. The literature is lacking in the realm of facial expressions and child populations. This study aimed to add to the literature concerning facial expressions as well as to evaluate sarcasm understanding with more than one cue present. To study this, participants were presented with stories in which a negative event occurred then they were asked questions to assess their understanding of the speaker’s mind. I found that children focused mainly on facial expressions while adults focused mainly on prosody (i.e., intonation). This is an interesting find because it suggests that sarcasm detection changes over the lifespan in regards to the types of cues used. It also suggests that children may only need facial expressions whereas adults may find prosody to be a reliable predictor of sarcasm.
Barnett, Kristen, "Sarcasm Understanding Across the Lifespan" (2019). Honors Theses. 1009.