Monday, May 30, 2005
Why some people just don't get it
Scientists have discovered comedy central in the brain--specific tissue regulating the ability to understand sarcasm. In sarcasm, the literal meaning is different from the true meaning, and some people just don't understand that difference. Sarcasm is used in social situations as an indirect way of expressing criticism. The network that regulates one's ability to appreciate sarcasm begins with an understanding of the meaning of the sentence, which is carried out by the left frontal lobe. Then the right frontal lobe helps put it into a social context. Finally the right frontal lobe must be able to differentiate between the literal meaning and what is really meant. People with damage to the right frontal lobe, right behind the eyes, are unable to appreciate this kind of humor. Perhaps even subtle differences in the "wiring" of this region can leave people unable to empathize, and it is this lack of ascertaining another's emotional state that may be responsible for the inability to understand sarcasm.