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The effects of modulating contrast in verbal irony as a cue for giftedness

  • Ivana Bianchi , Carla Canestrari EMAIL logo , Anna Maria Roncoroni , Roberto Burro , Erika Branchini and Ugo Savardi
From the journal HUMOR


This study adds to the existing literature on the ability to understand irony of typically developing versus gifted students (aged 12–15). In addition to the canonical condition of polarized statements applied to oppositely polarized situations, we also considered the case of intermediate statements and situations. The results showed a significant difference between the two groups of participants. Both groups recognized an ironic interpretation in the more usual condition of a polarized statement applied to a clearly oppositely polarized situation and they also grasped the idea that the bigger the contrast, the more ironic the message. However, gifted students demonstrated greater mastery, with regard to both polarized and intermediate statements. They also demonstrated greater ability compared with their non-gifted peers in the task which required them to explain the “rule” underlying the conditions which applied to the comments they had judged as ironic and to then produce ironic stories demonstrating the specificity of irony (not to be confused with generic humor).

Funding statement: This work was in part supported by funds awarded by ‘MENSA ITALIA – The High I.Q. Society’ and ‘AISTAP Association’ to the Department of Human Sciences at the University of Verona, Italy. The founding sponsors had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to publish the results.


We thank two anonymous reviewers whose observations have helped us to improve the quality of the paper, and Valerio Cori for his help in inventing the stories used in the study.


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Published Online: 2017-8-10
Published in Print: 2017-9-26

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