Mathews, J., Hancock, J.T., & Dunham, P.J. (2006). The role of politeness and humor in the asymmetry of affect in verbal irony. Discourse Processes, 41, 3-24.
Four experiments were conducted to assess the roles of politeness and humor in the asymmetry of affect observed in verbal irony production. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants rated different replies (ironic, literal, or “no response”) made to hypothetical scenarios for their politeness and humor, respectively. Participants in Experiment 3 were given the response options rated in the 2 previous experiments and were asked which response they would be most likely to make in each situation. Experiment 4 was a replication of Experiment 3 with the no-response option removed. Results indicated that humor, but not politeness, was a significant factor in a speaker’s decision to use verbal irony. These results raise some important questions for existing theories concerned with the roles of politeness and humor in the production of irony.