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Sarcasm and emoticons: comprehension and emotional impact

Filik, Ruth; Turcan, Alexandra; Thompson, Dominic; Harvey, Nicole; Davies, Harriet; Turner, Amelia


Associate Professor

Alexandra Turcan

Nicole Harvey

Harriet Davies

Amelia Turner


Most theorists agree that sarcasm serves some communicative function that would not be achieved by speaking directly, such as eliciting a particular emotional response in the recipient. One debate concerns whether this kind of language serves to enhance or mute the positive or negative nature of a message. The role of textual devices commonly used to accompany written sarcastic remarks is also unclear. The current research uses a rating task to investigate the influence of textual devices (emoticons and punctuation marks) on the comprehension of, and emotional responses to, sarcastic versus literal criticism and praise, for both unambiguous (Experiment 1) and ambiguous (Experiment 2) materials. Results showed that sarcastic criticism was rated as less negative than literal criticism, and sarcastic praise was rated as less positive than literal praise, suggesting that sarcasm serves to mute the positive or negative nature of the message. In terms of textual devices, results showed that emoticons had a larger influence on both comprehension and emotional impact than punctuation marks.


Filik, R., Turcan, A., Thompson, D., Harvey, N., Davies, H., & Turner, A. (2015). Sarcasm and emoticons: comprehension and emotional impact. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69(11),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 29, 2015
Publication Date Dec 11, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 8, 2017
Publicly Available Date Mar 8, 2017
Journal Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Print ISSN 1747-0218
Electronic ISSN 1747-0226
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 69
Issue 11
Keywords Language comprehension; Emotion; Figurative language; Sarcasm; Emoticons
Public URL
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Filik et al 2016.pdf (761 Kb)

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