Wolves, confederates and the happy few: the influence of comprehension, agreement and target on the appreciation of irony

M.J.P. van Mulken, C.F. Burgers, B. van der Plas

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


Comprehension is an important factor in the functioning of irony. Readers who are unaware of the irony in an utterance are "sheep," whereas readers who understand the irony are "wolves" (Gibbs & Izett, 2005). Factors that may impact on the attitude toward irony not only include comprehension, but agreement (agreeing with the position taken in the utterance or not) and group membership (belonging to the target of the irony or not) as well. In an experiment, participants were asked to evaluate either ironic prejudices against women or ironic prejudices against men. The attitude toward the utterance and text is more positive when participants recognize the ironic intention, agree with the statement, and are not the members of the targeted group. These results imply that studies into the pragmatic effects of verbal irony should consider these 3 factors. © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-68
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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