We all swear. Whether you're regularly foulmouthed or only occasionally whisper "fuck" into the stratosphere, you swear.
But, while blaspheming generally has a bad rep, science finally has something good to say about those tainted little words. A new study claims that users of curse words are likely more honest, because honest people get more emotional and emotional people swear more. Get it?
The joint investigation between University of Cambridge, Stanford University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Maastricht University, explored the relationship between profanity and honesty online and in person.
With three studies looking at the relationship between both factors using scales "in the lab", they found a consistent positive relationship between swearing and truth-telling: "profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level and with higher integrity at the society level." According to SAGE Journals, where the study is published:
"These two forms of norm-violating behavior share common causes and are often considered to be positively related. On the other hand, however, profanity is often used to express one’s genuine feelings and could therefore be negatively related to dishonesty."
The first study comprised the researchers getting 276 participants to describe their swearing habits by writing down the naughty words they like to use and how they use them in different scenarios. The participants were then asked a series of questions which alluded to their honesty levels, including how often they keep promises and whether their habits are good and desirable ones.
The scientists' second study looked at the relationship between real-life behavior and Facebook behavior. Examining users' swearing and honesty rates in status updates and comments, they detected where lies were present. The third test explored the relationship between state-level profanity rates and state-level integrity.
Backfiring massively on negative stereotypes related to people who swear, the study concluded people who were more relaxed with swearwords were more consistent with the truth and lied less.
As the study relies heavily on self-reported data, it's not exactly definitive science. However, in the questions about honesty, the researchers used a tactic which considered positive answers unrealistic, and therefore most likely a lie. Science, huh.
While the study doesn't conclude that people who swear more are better people (the actual context of the swearing isn't taken into account), it does show it can be believed that what they're saying is true.
This isn't the first positive take on verbal atrocities. Previous studies link swearing to success in business. Psycholinguists have observed that “taboo words communicate emotional information more effectively than non-taboo words” because of their nature, which can help boost someone's status in the workplace. Swearing also makes us more persuasive and may help us relieve pain, according to a BBC report outlining the benefits of swearing.
Now that it is all out in the open, can we ditch the stigma against swear words?
What I'm alluding to is that perhaps being prudish around swear words is an archaic attitude to have. Anyway, who is actually offended by phonetic vibrations transporting from a dirty mouth through the air to one's ear? Is it time to get over swearing?
The world is about to combust and when it does we'll all find it hard not to squeeze out obscenities. Nobody is a puritan anymore, are they? Even my cute Scottish gran likes to swear when she's cheering on Donald Trump.
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