Swearing Makes You A Better Friend, According To Science

I remember as a kid accidentally using one of the big ‘no-no’ swear words when jokingly talking to my brother. My dad overheard our conversation and then stared daggers at me, as a disapproving parent tends to do when you mess up.

Sorry to disappoint you dad, but that childhood slip of the tongue might have actually been indicative of my honesty and friendliness. Don’t blame me, blame science.

What The Duck?

Cute rubber ducky
Photo Credit: Timothy Dykes / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Timothy Dykes / Unsplash

Perhaps growing up your parents told you not to swear because it was seen a rude or classless behavior. Maybe you even had a swear jar sitting on top of your kitchen counter, further mocking you.

There’s no doubt that there’s a stigma surrounding swearing, but from pop culture to social media, and our daily social interactions, it’s infiltrated our everyday lives.

No Pain, No Gain

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Photo Credit: Maks Styazhkin / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Maks Styazhkin / Unsplash

Have you ever walked around the house and accidentally stubbed your toe on a table? If you’ve resisted the urge to yell every swear in the book, you might want to re-think your post-injury strategy.

A study published in NeuroScience revealed that participants who dunked their hands into icy cold water and swore were able to keep their hands in the frigid water much longer than participants who used neutral words. According to the study, “Swearing increased pain tolerance, increased heart rate, and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing.”

Get In Loser, We’re Doing Science

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Photo Credit: JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash
Photo Credit: JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash

So what’s the biological mechanism behind swearing relieving pain?

The study explained that the ‘observed pain-lessening (hypoalgesic) effect may occur because swearing induces a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception.’

You Bet Your Sass

A Lego Batman and Superman hang out
Photo Credit: Yulia Matvienko / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Yulia Matvienko / Unsplash

So now that we know swearing can apparently turn you into Superman, can it also turn you into a super friend?

A team of researchers from the United States, Netherlands, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom decided to put their theory to the test to find out.

“Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn”

A man is seen writing on paper
Photo Credit: Scott Graham / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Scott Graham / Unsplash

A 2017 study conducted by Cambridge University sought to explain the relationship between swearing and honesty.

276 participants were asked to jot down their favorite and most-used swear words. They then had to explain their reasoning for why they preferred these words and then underwent a lie test to see if they were being truthful, or if they answered the way they thought was socially acceptable.

Survey Says, Swearing Is Beneficial

Scrabble tiles spell the phrase
Photo Credit: Brett Jordan / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Brett Jordan / Unsplash

The results showed that the participants who jotted down a higher number of swear words were less likely to be lying.

Dr. David Stillwell is a lecturer at Cambridge University and co-author of the study. He said, ‘Swearing is often inappropriate but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion. Just as they aren’t filtering their language to be more palatable, they’re also not filtering their views.’

Swearing Is Caring

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Photo by Solen Feyissa / Unsplash
Photo by Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

A second survey compiled data from 75,000 Facebook users from across the United States and compared how often they use swear words in their day-to-day social interactions.

‘The research found that those who used more profanity were also more likely to use language patterns that have been shown in previous research to be related to honesty, such as using pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘me’,’reads the study.

One Final Thing To Keep In Mind

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Photo Credit: Katie Sparkes / Unsplash

As interesting as the study results were, the authors did have one word of warning, writing, “We therefore caution that the findings should not be interpreted to mean that the more a person uses profanity, the less likely he or she will engage in more serious unethical or immoral behaviors.”

So long story short: don’t be a douchecanoe.

Well, There You Have It

Demonstrators at a pro-science rally
Photo Credit: Vlad Tchompalov / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Vlad Tchompalov / Unsplash

So, not only is there a positive relationship between swearing and honesty, but curse words are also associated with less lying and deception on an individual level and with higher integrity at the social level.

And that’s coming from a group of scientists, so you can definitely trust them.

Go Get It, Amelia

Unlike Amelia, I started swearing well before I turned 20. But every person has their own reason for why they may or may not choose to swear, and that’s okay.

But do I consider myself to be a great friend? You’re damn right I do.