This was originally published on Off The Main Page on May 10, 2017.
A new study found that, under certain circumstances, swearing can provide more pain relief than prayer. Richard Stephens from Keele University said:
“We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain. A possible reason for this is that it stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system—that’s the system that makes your heart pound when you are in danger. But we have yet to understand the power of swearing fully. Swearing seems to be a form of emotional language. Perhaps it’s the emotional effect of the words that leads to the distraction, but this is just speculation at the moment.”
During the study, participants were given anaerobic and other physical tests both swearing and not swearing. The people who swore were able to produce more power on an exercise bike and on other tests. Here is what Stephens said about the power of swearing:
“When I am giving talks on the psychology of swearing I usually end with transcripts of the final utterances of fatal air crash pilots, captured on the black box flight recorder because, unsurprisingly, many of these feature swearing. I use it to emphasize an important point: that swearing must be important given its prominence in matters of life and death.”
“We appear to have established a two-way relation between swearing and emotion. Not only can swearing provoke an emotional response [as shown in the swearing and pain research] but raised emotional arousal has been shown to facilitate swearing, or at least one aspect of it, swearing fluency. These psychology studies demonstrate that there is more to swearing than routine offense-causing or a lack of linguistic hygiene. Language is a sophisticated toolkit and swearing is a useful component.”
Yeah, that’s why I do it.