There are times in life when frustration gets the better of you, and all you want to do is let out a big swear word. Whether you choose to give in to the desire to cuss or not, studies have now shown that women who swear tend to have a higher IQ.
The Link Between Swearing and Intelligence
There have been reports circulating the internet that researchers at the University of Rochester sought to find correlations between behavior and personality type. They asked 1,000 people about 400 everyday habits-from singing in the shower to swearing-and found that people who swear tend to also have higher IQ’s.
The study was allegedly posted in the Personality and Individual Differences journal, and it shows that intelligent people are also more likely to eat spicy food for breakfast, and walk around the kitchen naked. So if you do any or all of these things, you may just be a genius!
But this news story shouldn’t be that surprising, since not only has swearing been linked to intelligence, it’s also been linked to other redeeming qualities like strength, honesty, and language fluency.
Swearing Makes You Stronger
Dr. Richard Stephens of Keele University has done 2 studies to see if the effects of swearing make you stronger while exercising. In the first test, 29 participants were asked to perform short, intense anaerobic exercises on a bike both with swearing and without. During the second test 52 participants were asked to complete an isometric handgrip test, again after both swearing and not swearing. The test showed that people produced more power, and had a stronger hand grip after swearing.
Of this Stephens says: “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’re in danger.”
While we don’t suggest that it’s a good idea to swear when you’re at the gym, sending a little curse into the atmosphere when you’re struggling on the elliptical might up your motivation.
With the knowledge that swearing can make you stronger when in a stressful situation, it leads us to wonder, what prompts the swearing in the first place? In his next study, Stephens attempts to prove that swearing is driven by emotion and that stressful situations encourage swearing in individuals.
Emotional Stimulation Induces Swearing
Stephens continued his studies by conducting an experiment to see if emotional activation could induce swearing. In the experiment, Stephens gathered 60 undergraduate and postgraduate students and had them play a video game, Medal of Honour Frontline FPS. A video game called Tiger Woods PGA tour 2007 was used as a control condition.
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Stephens found that those who were playing Medal of Honour had increased emotional arousal, and were more likely to swear than those playing the golf game.
Using Swear Words is a Sign of Language Fluency
The use of swearing, or obscene language, is commonly associated with low-intelligence, low-social status, and an inability to express oneself competently. However, a study run by psychologists from Marist College found links between how fluent someone is in the English language with how fluent they are in swearing, by recording how many swear words a participant could think of in 1 minute. The results prove that people who swear may not be as incompetent as once thought.
Do All People Swear?
It is safe to say that while not everyone chooses to swear, competent English speakers learn how to swear at some point in their lives.
Psychologists Timothy Jay and Kristin Janschwitz state that “Swearing generally draws from a pool of 10 expressions and occurs at a rate of about 0.5 percent of one’s daily word output.”
However, the amount that each person swears is based on context, personality, religion, and a variety of psychological factors. While swearing crosses socioeconomic statuses and age ranges, it is more common among adolescents and men .
Has Our Frequency of Swearing Increased?
While our exposure to swearing has increased due to things like television, radio and the Internet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the frequency with which we use it has increased.
There is no data to suggest that our culture is increasing its use of taboo words, and research has shown that the most frequently recorded taboo words have remained consistent over the past 30 years. The most popular English swear words have been used for hundreds of years and have not yet been dislodged by modern slang .
So, if you happen to stub your toe and let loose a cuss, you no longer need to look around in fear of what others will think. It may just mean that you’re a smart, strong, emotionally driven individual who has a fantastic grasp of your own language.
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