When you hear someone cursing like a sailor, what is your reaction? Or maybe you are that person. How do you find that others react to you? In some circles and situations, swearing is viewed as lewd and inappropriate. In others, it’s par for the course. It can draw some laughs and start some interesting conversations.
People swear for different reasons, of course. For some, it’s their reaction to something startling or something frustrating. Some start cursing only when they get depressed. Some do it when they’re looking to add lightness and humor to a situation. Yet others seem to just spout of an expletive or two in every sentence. It’s one aspect of language that people are very divided on. For some people this is fine and others find it highly offensive.
The connection between swearing and honesty
Whatever your feelings on swearing, you may find a new study recently published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science quite interesting. In this study, researchers linked a tendency to swear with a tendency towards honesty. In short, if this research is to be believed, that co-worker who curses all the time may be more likely to be an honest person.
On the context for this study, the authors explained:
“There are two conflicting perspectives regarding the relationship between profanity and dishonesty. 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.”
Users who swear on social media are more honest
To test the relationship between swearing and honesty, researchers gave questionnaires to 276 volunteers. Each volunteer was asked to list the swear words that they liked to use most. They were also asked to jot down their reasons for using said curse words. Afterward, each volunteer was given a lie test, to see if their responses on the questionnaire (as to why they used the swears they chose) were genuine. Results showed that the volunteers who stated that they used the most amount of swear words were more likely to be truthful with their answers.
Next, the researchers analyzed data from 75,000 Facebook users in order to determine how often they used curse words online. Through their analysis, the researchers found that the users that swore more on their social media accounts were also associated with other language patterns linked to honesty, including the use of personal pronouns.
Demographics of where in the United States people were more likely to swear were also surveyed — the Northeast was found to swear more and the South was found to swear less.
Who would you rather be around?
Dr. David Stillwell, co-author of the study and lecturer at the University of Cambridge, summarized the study nicely:
“The relationship between profanity and dishonesty is a tricky one. 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.”
These findings beg the question of what kind of person we’d rather be around: someone who speaks in a socially acceptable way, but is dishonest, or someone who curses and says shocking, inappropriate things, but tells it like it is. Of course, it is not always this cut and dry, and not all people who swear are honest (and vice versa). But, it does make one think twice about judging someone with a penchant for expletives.
So, if you’re one of these people, as long as you’re not hurting anyone… %$#@ yes!
– Tanya Mead