Jul
13
2009

Excuse me?! What did you say?

Watch out for that F-bomb coming right at 'cha.
Watch out for that F-bomb coming right at 'cha.Courtesy wickenden
A new study shows that bad language could serve as a pain reliever. NeuroReport published the study, which measured how long college students could keep their hands submerged in cold water. Students had a choice to either swear repeatedly, or use a neutral word. And what do ya know, the cursing kids reported less pain and also managed to keep their hands immersed for an average of 40 seconds longer. Well what the @%$#?

Richard Stephens of Keele University in England says, "Swearing is such a common response to pain that there has to be an underlying reason why we do it.” His research has shown that we could benefit. He states, “"I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear."

So how does swearing achieve physical relief? In the study, students’ heart rate rose when they swore, which suggests the fight-or-flight response in which the heart rate climbs so that we become less sensitive to pain. The structure that triggers this response, the the amygdala, was indeed activated during the study which means that unlike normal languages, expletives activate emotional centers in the right side of the brain.

Stephens cautions that the more you swear, the less emotionally potent the word becomes. So don’t be cursin’ left and right because you read it here. But hopefully, with scientific information to back it up, mothers will no longer feel the need to wash their kids’ mouths with soap.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

This is why we need new, more offensive swear words. And they can't just be nonsense words, children. They have to be something that will really get you slapped.

If anyone out there is giving out grant money, I'm willing to do some serious research on this subject. Come on—it's to help people in pain.

posted on Mon, 07/13/2009 - 11:53am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

hmm...i wonder about the test subjects. i think there's more to it than students who swore vs. students who didn't. what were their characters like? body build/mass? athletic-city? endurance? body fat percentages?
did they do a reverse test where they asked the students who swore to not swear on the second trial? and vice versa? what were the results?

what about swearing when you're Not in pain? if swearing releaves pain, there should still be some reaction even when you are not in pain?

i think this is an interesting take on swearing and pain-releaving, but needs more research and data support before publishing inaccurate statements.

posted on Mon, 07/13/2009 - 5:54pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I don't suppose there's space to get into all of those details in a popular press article about the study (much less in a blog posting), but if I had to put money on it, I'd guess that the researchers accounted for variables known to affect pain tolerance, and, I don't know, endurance in cold water.

The link to the abstract was broken before (it looks ok now), but this study was published in a legitimate scientific journal. That doesn't mean that it's the be all, end all Truth, but I'm pretty sure most journals are pretty careful about what they publish. (Bad research reflects poorly on them too, not just the authors.) And the peer review process has its problems, but I think at least it's going to filter out most studies with insufficient data.

I think the answers you're looking for have probably been addressed in the study, but it might be up to you to find them. Write back and let us know what you come up with!

posted on Tue, 07/14/2009 - 9:38am
SyDnEy_RaE's picture
SyDnEy_RaE says:

I think this is scientifically interestings.how does that work though?..lol i guess thats jus suprising because i have never herd that before.

posted on Tue, 07/14/2009 - 4:04pm
dellax28's picture
dellax28 says:

I never knew that bad language could be severe as a pain reliever

posted on Tue, 07/14/2009 - 4:13pm
shaunalynn10's picture

i usually swear when im hurt and it does make me feel better

posted on Tue, 07/14/2009 - 4:17pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

You may be on to something here.. . My now-retired-from-dairy-farming father had apparently discovered this phenomenon early in his career, and because he had, my young ears heard swear words in a language he never spoke under less stressful conditions. The most dramatic examples occurred when one of his very large and heavy Holsteins would alight on his foot and just stand there. The cascade of profanity that followed such an event would curdle milk!

posted on Thu, 07/16/2009 - 9:40pm

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