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International Journal of Humor Research

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Volume 27, Issue 4 (Oct 2014)


On sarcasm, social awareness, and gender

Ari Drucker
  • Corresponding author
  • Tel Aviv University
  • Email:
/ Ofer Fein
  • The Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo
  • Email:
/ Dafna Bergerbest
  • The Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo
  • Email:
/ Rachel Giora
  • Tel Aviv University
  • Email:
Published Online: 2014-10-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2014-0092


Sarcastic irony, uttered in four (within and between) gender-based settings, is used here as a tool to diagnose affective attitudes toward women. The kind of sarcasm tested here is an aggressive type of humor, whereby a speaker derides another individual, turning her or him into the victim of the humorous utterance. Finding this kind of irony less or more pleasing allows indexing between- and within-group attitudes. Participants were overall nonsexist, scoring low on sexism scales, but male participants were still more sexist than female participants. Results show that, as predicted by Ariel and Giora (1998), female participants fully adopted a feminine point of view, enjoying sarcastic irony best when it was directed by women at men and least when it was directed by women at women. Being more sexist, our male participants adopted a feminine point of view only partially, enjoying sarcastic irony more when directed at men than directed at women, regardless of the speaker's gender.

Keywords: sarcasm; irony; gender; humor; feminism; social awareness

About the article

Ari Drucker

Ari Drucker holds a Master's degree in Linguistics (magna cum laude) from Tel Aviv University. His research interests include gender and language and the processing and use of nonliteral language (e.g., irony).

Ofer Fein

Ofer Fein is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology in The Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo. His current research interests include psycholinguistics, psychology of sexual orientation, application of queer theory to psychology, and homophobia.

Dafna Bergerbest

Dafna Bergerbest is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology in The Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo. Her recent work focuses on the cognitive processes underlying comprehension of ambiguous language, the relation between language and thought, and interaction between attention, memory and consciousness.

Rachel Giora

Rachel Giora is Professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University. Her research areas include the cognitive aspects of discourse coherence, discourse relevance, language and ideology, women and language, and the language of literary texts. As of 1997, her work has focused on the Graded Salience Hypothesis, featuring the psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics of figurative language (irony, jokes, and metaphor), context effects, optimal innovations, aesthetic pleasure, discourse negation, and the notion of salience in relation to autism, context, and nonliteral language. Her present research discusses a new notion, Default Nonliteral Interpretation, which cannot be encompassed by the Graded Salience Hypothesis. In all, she has published over 100 articles, a book (On Our Mind: Salience, Context, and Figurative Language [Oxford University Press, 2003]) and coedited (with Patrick Hanks) a 6-volume series Metaphor and Figurative Language (Routledge, 2011).

Published Online: 2014-10-08

Published in Print: 2014-10-01

Citation Information: HUMOR, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2014-0092. Export Citation

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