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International Journal of Humor Research

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Volume 30, Issue 4


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

Ivana Bianchi / Carla Canestrari
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Education, Cultural Heritage and Tourism, University of Macerata, P.le Luigi Bertelli 1, 62100 Macerata, Italy
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/ Anna Maria Roncoroni
  • President of the Italian Association for Gifted and Talented students, Member of the General Committee of the European Council for High Ability, Piazza Alessi 1/12, Genova 16128, Italy
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/ Roberto Burro / Erika Branchini / Ugo Savardi
Published Online: 2017-08-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0028


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).

Keywords: verbal irony; giftedness; contrast; opposites; intermediates; perceptual structure of dimensions


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-08-10

Published in Print: 2017-09-26

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.

Citation Information: HUMOR, Volume 30, Issue 4, Pages 383–415, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0028.

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