CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons/daveparker
Children are often taught to be tactful in their choice of words and actions. Be polite. Speak slowly. Say what you mean. These are some instructions that grownups give kids regularly.
But a new study published by Frontiers in Psychology has suggested that kids can learn more by having the ability to differentiate sarcasm from a literal statement. Penny Pexman, co-author of the study, said for kids to to understand sarcasm better, they have to think about what the person means instead of listening to what they are saying.
Pexman, a psychologist at the University of Calgary in Canada, asserted this is where empathy works. It is highly unlikely that a child who cannot recognize another person's emotions can pick up sarcastic tones under the age of 8 or 9. While young children can understand simple forms of sarcasm like saying "gee thanks" when disappointed; the more sophisticated forms that involve irony, false statements and fake cheerfulness are often lost on them.
The psychologist with her colleagues conducted an experiment where they showed 31 children aged 8 to 9 a video of a puppet show where a puppet attempts to snowboard and lands on his face. Another puppet commented that the failed move was "so good."
The parents of the kids were then given questionnaires to determine each child's general behavior by asking questions such as "to what extent is your child visibly upset when he or she sees other people upset?" They took the empathy scores from the feedback form with the child's ability to detect the incidence of sarcasm in the video.
They found that the higher ability that the child had to empathize with others, the more he could understand the irony of the situation in the video.
Empathetic children, Pexman noted, are better at looking into what a person feels through tone and body language instead of literal statements. She stressed it is also possible for children to develop an understanding of sarcasm through a variety of factors such as having sarcastic parents.
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