How the Brain Processes Language Intent

People can say things that, given the circumstances, inflection, emphasis and body language, can be meant as straight or sarcastic.  If you’ve ever tried a [tag]sarcastic joke[/tag] in front of a group of people, however, you’ll notice that not everyone “gets it.”

Why is that?  Did we do something wrong?

Possibly, since we didn’t take into account how people’s brains process language intent.  A recent study done in Israel, reported here by the [tag]American Psychological Association [/tag](APA), came to these three conclusions about how our brains function:

  1. The left hemisphere language cortices interpret the literal meaning of the utterance;
  2. The frontal lobes and right hemisphere process the intentional, social and emotional context, identifying the contradiction between the literal meaning and the social/emotional context;
  3. The right ventromedial prefrontal cortex integrates the literal meaning with the social/emotional knowledge of the situation and previous situations, helping the listener determine the true meaning.

Sounds complicated, but what it means is that not everyone’s three interpreting spheres function fully or equally, so “whoosh” go some things over some people’s head.

Read the full APA Press Release on sarcastic language.

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