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Medicine Science

Sarcasm Useful For Detecting Dementia 389

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the yeah-that'll-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, but Australian scientists are using it to diagnose dementia, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of New South Wales, found that patients under the age of 65 suffering from frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the second most common form of dementia, cannot detect when someone is being sarcastic."
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Sarcasm Useful For Detecting Dementia

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  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:28PM (#26121431) Journal

    Studies also found that old people who do not have dementia are likely to whack you with their canes for sassing them.

    Doctor: "Oh, yeaaaa, you're normal"
    Patient: "Why you little whippernapper! *WHACK* *WHACK*"
    Doctor: "No! Ow! No! It was a medical test!
    Patient: "I lived through 15 wars and 5 depressions, and I'm not going to let some damn young quack backtalk me in the name of science!" *WHACK* *WHACK*

    • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:01PM (#26121889) Homepage

      Actually, I wonder if this is exactly why the behavior of being a smart-ass has evolved in children. We need some way for young people to be able to know if an elder is mentally competent enough. If someone with dementia can't detect sarcasm, it stands to reason that by being a smart-ass, you can tell if they're still capable of making leadership decisions. If they are, then they'll smack you, if not, you put them out on an ice floe.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:05PM (#26121945)

        And I thought I was just an ass, turns out I'm a dementia detecting savant.

      • Fascinating point.

        We need some way for young people to be able to know if an elder is mentally competent enough.

        I'd suggest that sarcasm would be one of the tools youngsters would use to gauge leadership mettle, as opposed to the only one.
      • Well obviously it doesn't work. Too many false positives. that must be why children seem to think that all old people can't make decisions.

        Or maybe it works spot on and we all really are crazy. Wait, maybe it's happening now! Was your post supposed to be sarcastic?!?! am I reading it right!! Maybe I have Dementia. Maybe you planed this ahead of time! Your out to get me I know it, YOU'RE ALL OUT TO GET ME...Wait, thats just paranoia, whew, I was worried there.
      • by Brigadier (12956) on Monday December 15, 2008 @03:17PM (#26122901)

        sarcasm is cultural.... I grew up in Jamaica, after moving to the US I had a very hard time understanding sarcasm which is very common here. In my experience growing up in Jamaica sarcasm wasn't common at all.

  • Sarcasm mark (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:29PM (#26121443) Homepage Journal
    I found this bit from the Wikipedia to be interesting:

    In certain Ethiopic languages, sarcasm is indicated with a sarcasm mark, a character that looks like a backwards question mark at the end of a sentence, similar to Alcanter de Brahm's proposed irony mark ().

    So did the fledgeling movement of Slashdotters who proposed using the tilde ~ as the sarcasm mark beat them to it?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:35PM (#26121513)

      ~yeah, ~as ~if ~that ~would ~work().

    • by BigJClark (1226554) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:45PM (#26121657)

      Sarcasm has no place on the internet. period.
      • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:03PM (#26121907) Journal
        As an octogenarian who has seen the negative effects of censorship across various media over many decades, I find your desire to absolutely deny peoples' right to express themselves in a particular way to be not only naive, but also -- oooh, look at the bird feeder, that hummingbird is back!!
      • by drspliff (652992) <harry.roberts@NOSPAM.midnight-labs.org> on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:24PM (#26122239)

        Unfortunately it can also be a problem in real-life, generally when I'm being sarcastic I sound and act exactly as if I wasn't, combine this with my quirky personalty and it gets interesting.

        (while in a job interview)
        Interviewer: so what kind of hobbies do you have, apart from coding?
        Me: Well, rock climbing, some music production, necrophelia and subtle dark humor.

        I wanted to convey that he's just trying to make small-talk to cover up the fact that he's already decided they weren't going to employ me, instead his face twitched for a second and his mouth opened and you could see his brain clicking away trying to digest what I'd just said.

        Um yah, getting back ontopic you can be sarcastic on the internet if people know you well, we all understand subtle humour & emotions while reading what other people write, but for complete strangers that's pretty much impossible.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Koiu Lpoi (632570)

          to cover up the fact that he's already decided they weren't going to employ me

          Whether or not that's true, your comment certainly would have cemented him into that position. Self-fulfilling prophecy indeed.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AviLazar (741826)
          I wanted to convey that he's just trying to make small-talk to cover up the fact that he's already decided they weren't going to employ me, instead his face twitched for a second and his mouth opened and you could see his brain clicking away trying to digest what I'd just said.

          More-then likely you shot yourself in the foot. I have interviewed many people and when I don't want to hire someone i try to end the interview fast with the least amount of questions. The small talk, as others have noted, was p
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by stephanruby (542433)
            You're assuming that the interviewee in this scenario didn't have any power in the interview process. You're also assuming that because he was being interviewed, he was unemployed already. Those two assumptions, although probably correct for most job applicants, tells us more about your mindset and your station in life than anything about him and his.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Mazzie (672533)
          I hope you weren't interviewing for a position as the webmaster of a funeral home's website.
      • by e4g4 (533831)
        Are you certain of that? Question mark?
    • Re:Sarcasm mark (Score:4, Informative)

      by Andr T. (1006215) <(andretaff) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:47PM (#26121683)

      I have a friend who said once that you can give sexual meaning to any statement as long as you end it with "if you know what I mean". Something like:

      Now I will recompile my kernel, if you know what I mean.

      Maybe people could use a sentence like that to imply sarcasm... maybe 'Obviously'.

      ...if you know what I mean.

      • That's what she said.
      • Say no more sir!
        Wink wink nudge nudge.

        Ah is your wife a goer?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:12PM (#26122041)

        I have a friend who said once that you can give sexual meaning to any statement as long as you end it with "if you know what I mean".

        Ironically, the same results can be achieved by ending statements with 'would you have sex with me.'

      • by Endo13 (1000782)

        ...if you know what I mean.

        We always know what you mean.

    • The tilde is a good choice in English; in logic the tilde is a common symbol for negation [wikipedia.org], and since sarcasm is basically negation, that makes sense.

      Likewise the upside down question mark (whose proper name is "signo de apertura de interrogacion invertido" which, yes, means "Upside down question mark" in Spanish) would be a poor choice in Spanish, since it's already used to indicate the beginning of a question.

      Basically, what I'm getting at is that the mark will just end up being another idiom to confuse pe

      • the upside down question mark (whose proper name is "signo de apertura de interrogacion invertido" which, yes, means "Upside down question mark" in Spanish) would be a poor choice in Spanish, since it's already used to indicate the beginning of a question

        The sarcasm mark is a backwards question mark, not upside down.

  • Obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by PinkyDead (862370) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:29PM (#26121445) Journal

    <sarcasm>Really?</sarcasm>

  • by Daravon (848487) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:30PM (#26121455)

    ...90% of the internet is demented.

  • Ooo.. nice. (Score:5, Funny)

    by onion2k (203094) * on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:31PM (#26121465) Homepage

    What a great idea.

    If you're wondering if you've got dementia, and you thought this comment was sarcastic, then you have because it wasn't.

    If you're not wondering if you've got dementia, then you have too because it totally was sarcastic.

    Or maybe it's me who has dementia. I don't know if I'm being sarcastic. Oh dear.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:32PM (#26121483) Journal

    Since sarcasm is notoriously difficult to convey online, does this mean the Internet is a dementia simulator? Actually, that would explain a lot of things...

  • Don't worry, you're not senile, everyone forgets to zip down sometimes...

  • You assume EVERYTHING is sarcasm?
  • by pzs (857406)

    Wow. I never knew there were so many [slashdot.org] demented [slashdot.org] people [slashdot.org] on Slashdot.

  • House (Score:3, Funny)

    by Andr T. (1006215) <(andretaff) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:38PM (#26121559)
    Maybe sarcasm is good to identify other diseases as well. That's why House is so good!
  • No, seriously, I really do have this medical problem that really does make me have to sound like I'm being sarcastic all the time. I really mean what I'm saying. I'm really not trying to sound like this.

    Or something like that. I gotta youtube that later.

  • . . .all of my professors are already demented, then.
  • Practice being sarcastic in a way that sounds a lot like how you normally talk. When you do it more with body language and word choice than tone of voice, it's amazing how many people will fail to pick up on it.

  • by elashish14 (1302231) <profcalc4@gmBLUEail.com minus berry> on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:44PM (#26121643)
    Doctors Recommend Reading Slashdot to Diagnose Dementia.
  • Then I'm good to go.
  • I am tired of people trying to appear insightful by
    stating an obvious irony in a sneering and sometimes exaggerated way,
    but this research will be of immediate use to all of humanity.

    So I say God's speed to those brave Australian scientists and their noble cause.
    The world salutes you!

  • Who can't detect sarcasm either. One of my friends can't pick up sarcasm in the least.

    One of our favorite pastimes is going over to his dorm and saying all the sarcastic things we can think of and watching him freak out. Good god, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.
  • Do tell, bright light.

  • Sarcasm Lowest Form? (Score:2, Informative)

    by camperdave (969942)
    Whoever said that sarcasm was the lowest form of wit never lived with my former room-mate. He could hardly ever get a sentence out without some word play mixed in. It was constant pun-ishment.
    • Wordplay/Punning != Sarcasm.

      *Some* sarcasm will make use of wordplay, but typically sarcasm is saying the opposite of what you mean, in a manner that conveys to the listener that you do not mean what you are saying.

      The best sarcasm, IMO, is dry sarcasm, where you do not tip off the listener... they need to be actually listening and involved in a conversation in order to get the 'joke'. I often use very dry sarcasm to determine if my partner in the conversation (or my student, if I am teaching) is activel
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Xtifr (1323)

        **Whoosh!**

        He was saying (and I fully agree) that puns are a lower (much, IMO) form of humor than sarcasm.

        Actually, what many people refer to as sarcasm is really irony or satire. Sarcasm implies scorn or contempt. It does not imply "saying the opposite of what you mean". That's a particular form of irony. It may be sarcasm if the intent is to wound or disparage, but if it's simply done in good humor, then it's not sarcasm at all.

        Dry irony is actually one of my favorite forms of wit, although I tend to

  • by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:02PM (#26121897)

    "Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, but Australian scientists are using it to diagnose dementia, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of New South Wales, found that patients under the age of 65 suffering from frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the second most common form of dementia, cannot detect when someone is being sarcastic."

    I have suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia since the age of 15. I'm 33 now, and I can say from my own personal experience that this is very true.

    One of the many reasons I have trouble 'fitting in', especially at social gatherings, is my inability to detect sarcasm. It can be terrifying when someone says something that could be interpreted 'literally' as demeaning or cruel but is only 'joking around' etc.

    I'm better now than I was, but usually only after getting to know a person well. Surprisingly however, even people I've known for 5+ years can still be sarcastic occasionally and it will go right over my head. They know about my illness however, and on occasions like those do me the favor of pointing out they were just being sarcastic, which helps.

    I think the approach in the article could be a great diagnostic tool for early detection of these types of mental illness...I suffered from schizophrenia without knowing I had it for almost 10 years. My life fell to pieces; that and my family and friends (the few I had left) finally convinced me I had a problem. I was the last to know I had schizophrenia...and it has been very very difficult coming to terms with it.

    Maybe if it was detected earlier I could have been treated earlier, and the damage to my life and my state of mind might have been mitigated considerably. I don't know.

    • by dword (735428)
      First of all, I feel very sorry for you and I hope you don't take it the wrong way, but what are you doing on Slashdot, man?!? This place is full of socially challenged idiots pretending to be smart by using sarcasm (ummm... yeah, I realize I'm part of the crowd, but I don't care). Unfortunately, today's Slashdot coolness is often confused with funny sarcastic comments, instead of serious insightful comments.
      I'm also curious, how do you detect sarcasm in writing, if it's not specially marked, as one of the
  • by yorgo (595005) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:02PM (#26121903)
    ...parody is being used to detect Alzheimer's disease, and satire to detect lupus.
  • Can you detect when people are purposefully ignoring it? The quickest way to get people to stop being sarcastic is to take them literally.

  • "Oooh, a sarcasm detector. That's a really useful invention."
  • ...or they might be autistic. Nice of them to jump to conclusions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Valdrax (32670)

      Nice of you to jump to the conclusion that a psychiatrist only uses a single factor in testing for a mental illness. 'Cause the DSM IV is just FULL of illness that only have a single symptom which is NEVER a sign of another illness.

  • I propose... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Emb3rz (1210286) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:07PM (#26121965) Homepage
    I hereby propose that the customary "whoosh" be replaced with "You may have Frontotemporal Dementia [wikipedia.org]. Please see your physician."
  • Speak as a Masshole (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raddan (519638) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:07PM (#26121975)
    with a great love of sacrasm, I've noticed that there is a definite geographical component to it. For example, while traveling in the South, I discovered that my use of sarcasm was frequently either taken at face value, or misinterpreted as me just being an asshole. For instance, saying something like "nice weather today" (when it clearly is not) is an icebreaker that works across socioeconomic lines in a place like MA. However, [in my experience] in the South, uttering something so baldly wrong often earns you the you-are-an-idiot look. So while this test may be useful in cultures that actually use/value sarcasm, I think it may be less useful in ones that do not.
  • you are most probably sane

    if you are certain of your sanity, you very well coudl be insane

    sarcasm is an outward expression of doubting that which is said with certainty

    and so in the end the act of doubting yourself is the only grasp any of us have on our sanity

    long live sarcasm

  • by Pingo (41908) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:36PM (#26122419)

    From my own experience I have noticed that people
    in the very start of a psykosis episode also suffers from not beeing able to understand sarcasm.

    This is before they show any real signs of the mental illness.

    I lived together with a woman many years that had this kind of problems and I used sarcasm to check her up so to speak. It never failed to indicate when she was about to have a new episode and to be prepared to help her out.

  • by hahiss (696716)

    Just what slashdot needs--an excuse for sarcastic posts.

  • by volpe (58112) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:46PM (#26122543)

    Thanks!

  • I'm terrible at dealing with sarcasm. At work, I'm very straight forward, and all but the most extreme bits of sarcasm are usually lost on me. I'll take what you say at face value and work from there.

    It's worked out well for me, but maybe I'm just being demented.

  • Lowest Form of Wit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fm6 (162816) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:52PM (#26122623) Homepage Journal

    Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit...

    Never, never begin a submission with a clever aside. You're absolutely begging to be contradicted!

    Here's the kind of wit that's lowest in my esteem, in rough order of lowness. Oddly enough, they're all popular on Slashdot!

    1. Proctological exhibitionism [wikipedia.org]
    2. A Slashdot signature designed to trick people into logging out.
    3. Saying "automagically" instead of "automatically".
    4. Retooling worn out jokes to fit the current situation ("I, for one, welcome our new sarcastic overlords").
  • Wait, what was I doing here?!?
  • EMT technique? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by localman (111171) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:57PM (#26122667) Homepage

    I don't know if this is common or not, but an EMT seemed to use this once to tell if I was going to pass out. I had broken my upper arm and at some point I guess I was looking whiter than usual (according to my friends). After putting the arm in a sling the EMT looked at me very seriously and said something like "What's the problem? You're a big guy. What's the big deal?" I was confused for a moment, then I realized he was being sarcastic and I laughed. When I did, he smiled, patted me on the (other) shoulder and announced "Yeah, he's okay. He'll be fine."

    I thought that was a pretty good way to tell how out of it I was. Of course some people don't get sarcasm at all, so it might not work all the time.

  • by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craig@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday December 15, 2008 @03:30PM (#26123097)

    From TFA:

    "(FTD) patients present changes in personality and behaviour. They find it difficult to interact with people, they don't pick up on social cues, they lack empathy, they make bad judgements."

    That sounds almost like a textbook description of Asperger's Syndrome. Hmmmm....

  • 20/20..... (Score:3, Funny)

    by IHC Navistar (967161) on Monday December 15, 2008 @05:49PM (#26125219)

    "Researchers at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, found that patients under the age of 65 suffering from frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the second most common form of dementia, cannot detect when someone is being sarcastic."

    -I guess this means that most cops are suffering from dementia.

    This handy dandy little piece of information would have been helpful to know a while ago, especially before I told that Highway Patrolwomen she could put me in handcuffs anytime she wanted to.

  • Is This For Real? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:37PM (#26137129) Journal

    Or are you just pulling my leg?

    Anyway, people with dementia also serve to fill in the missing pieces by making things up ("confabulation" is the unnecessarily obtuse term for it), frequently accusing people of saying or doing things against them when in fact they had no such intention. Thus, people with dementia should also often mistake plain statements for sarcasm.

    Humor, now, that one would be hard to mistake. You may not think it's funny, but you get it or you don't. No mistaking it being personally directed. Much better diagnostic IMO.

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