Rather than serving as the refuge of the inarticulate, swearing can help people deal with the frustrating events in their f—ing lives.
That’s according to research led by Richard Stephens at Keele University in the U.K.
“As we looked into swearing further, it became apparent that it’s actually emotional language, and can make you feel better in certain situations,” he tells the Daily Beast. “If you’re waiting for an ambulance and have no drugs, cursing can actually reduce the feeling of pain.”
To come to those conclusions, Stephens did some f—ing awesome experiments.
In one study, participants played video games, either a golf simulation or a violent shoot-em-up. Then, to see the connection between emotional states and swearing, they were tested for aggression levels and their ability to recall swear words.
The result: Folks who had just played the violent game were indeed more aggressive. In addition, they could reel off a higher number of curse words — a respectable eight, in fact.
In another study, participants were asked to submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible. The first time around, they could repeat a swear word of their choice while doing so; the second time, they repeated an adjective they’d use to describe a table.
When cursing, folks could hold their hands underwater for 73% longer. Interestingly, the more frequently someone used the swear in their everyday life, the less helpful it was in keeping their hands underwater.
“We want to use more taboo words when we are emotional,” Stephens says. “We grow up learning what these words are and using these words while we are emotional can help us to feel stronger.”
Like most people, Stephens was interested in swearing when he was a kid. But his wife can take credit for his current research focus: Stephens knew he had to start researching the topic when he saw her swear her way through childbirth.
Tell all that to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president just signed a ban on swearing in movies, concerts, and plays.
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