Sounds like a funny joke: Effects of vocal pitch and speech rate on satire liking

Britta Brugman, Christian Burgers

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Katz (1996, 2005, 2009) has often emphasized the importance of testing effects of irony in its social context. One social context that has not yet received much attention in the literature is the inherently ironic genre of satirical news. To alert their audiences to irony, satirists can use markers, one of which being prosody. However, little is known about whether variations in prosodic features actually promote satire liking. This paper focused on two prosodic features that previous research associated with irony marking: (1) low vocal pitch, and (2) slow speech rate. We conducted two experiments to determine whether a low (vs. high) vocal pitch (Experiment 1; N = 244) and a slow (vs. fast) speech rate (Experiment 2; N = 234) moderated potential effects of satirical (vs. regular) news exposure on perceived humor, enjoyment and appreciation. Results showed that participants rated satirical news recordings as more humorous than regular news recordings. In both experiments, enjoyment and appreciation of satirical news were mediated by perceived humor, such that there was a suppression effect: while the indirect effect of satirical news exposure on enjoyment and appreciation was positive, the direct effect was negative. Vocal pitch and speech rate did not influence humor ratings. This finding suggests that contextual cues may already sufficiently be at play in signaling the irony in satirical news, therefore supporting Katz’s claim (1996, 2005, 2009) that taking social context into account when conducting irony experiments is essential.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-227
JournalCanadian Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • satirical news
  • irony
  • humor
  • entertainment
  • prosody


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