Where Sarcasm Resides


Katherine Rankin, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist and assistant professor in the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco has developed an innovative test known as the Awareness of Social Inference Test. The test, developed in 2002, uses videotaped vignettes of exchanges in which the seemingly straightforward words are delivered in a overt sarcastic style.Dr. Rankin's test relies on the person's ability to detect paralinguistic cues. MRI scans revealed that those individuals who had a problem detecting sarcasm had dysfunction in the right parahippocampal gyrus. This finding highlighted that the right parahippocampal gyrus must detect more than just visual context, but also the social context. The right hemisphere language function is where the appreciation of humor and jokes resides. Dr. Rankin was asked how individuals with intact brains differ in their ability to pick up sarcasm. The case in point was Jon Stewart, who uses sarcasm effectively on The Daily Show. Dr. Rankin commented that Mr. Stewart "is probably just normal, the right parahippocampal gyrus is involved in detecting sarcasm, not in being sarcastic." But then she added, "I bet Jon Stewart has a huge right frontal lobe, that's where the sense of humor is detected on MRI."

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.
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