Defaultness shines while affirmation pales: On idioms, sarcasm, and pleasure

Rachel Giora, Dalia Meytes, Ariela Tamir, Shir Givoni, Vered Heruti, Ofer Fein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The Defaultness Hypothesis (Giora et al., 2015c) maintains that it is Defaultness that reigns supreme, superseding all factors known to affect processing initially, such as degree of Non/literalness, Nonsalience, Context strength, or Affirmation. Here we focus on weighing degree of Defaultness against degree of Affirmation. We show that, as predicted, processing default, salient responses to familiar Negatives is faster than processing nondefault, low-salience responses to less-familiar Affirmative counterparts. We further show that, despite benefitting from equally strong contextual support, default nonsalient Negative Sarcasm is processed faster than nondefault nonsalient Affirmative Sarcasm.1 Using linguistic and pictorial contexts, we also demonstrate that it is Defaultness that accounts for Nondefaultness’ appeal, rendering it optimally innovative and hence pleasing. It is Defaultness, then, that singlehandedly affects both processing speed as well as likability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIrony in Language Use and Communication
EditorsAngeliki Athanasiadou, Herbert L. Colston
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789027264824
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameFigurative Thought and Language
ISSN (Print)2405-6944

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 John Benjamins Publishing Company


This research was supported by The Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 436/12) to Rachel Gio-ra and by The British Academy grant to Ruth Filik and Rachel Giora (grant no. PM140296). We would also like to thank Adi Cholev and Inbal Jaffe for their help in the running of experiments, and Herbert Colston, Raymond Gibbs, and Robert Willison for their very helpful comments and suggestions.

FundersFunder number
British AcademyPM140296
Israel Science Foundation436/12


    • Affirmative Sarcasm
    • Affirmatives
    • Defaultness
    • Negative Sarcasm
    • Negatives
    • Pleasure Ratings
    • Processing speed
    • Salience
    • The Defaultness Hypothesis


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