Newswise — Melanie Glenwright is studying sarcasm.

Sure she is.

"Sarcasm is something that we don't 'get' until a certain point in our childhood stage of development, late in our primary years," she notes. "It's a learned thing, and takes time to develop."

A child psychologist. Glenwright will be working this fall with a colleague at the University of Calgary to study how children react to sarcasm and humour in different situations. She has been using puppets to act out scenes in which sarcasm or irony is used, and testing children's responses. Her results are shedding light on the origins of teasing, which can later turn into bullying at later stages of child development.

"Children can sympathize with the target of verbal teasing at an early age," she explains. "If asked if a speaker was being 'real' or not with a particular statement, children had trouble recognizing the humour intended."

Glenwright adds: "Children's ability to grasp the meaning of irony depends on their age, mental maturity and what they've learned from their social environment."

Soon, Glenwright will also be studying adult understanding of sarcasm and humour through an examination of TV shows such as Friends.

"It's a very fascinating area of study," she says. She certainly was not being sarcastic. Uh — right?

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