Are People Who Swear More Honest?
Whether your a sailor on the open seas or a parent frustrated with a stubborn child, you’ve probably used an expletive or two.
We swear. For different reasons, in different situations. And some of us do it more often than others.
People might say that it’s a lazy way to express yourself or completely unnecessary. But new research has found that it might actually be a good thing.
The study, published in Social Psychology and Personality Science, found that profanity has surprisingly been linked to higher levels of honesty.
Settling the Honesty Debate
Not everyone is okay with swearing. While some may see it as a sign of a rough or unethical character, others see it as a sign of someone who is more genuine.
The best way to settle a debate, is with evidence. So a few psychologists decided to do just that. From their study they explain:
We set out to provide an empirical answer to competing views regarding the relationship between profanity and honesty.
Curious to which side of the debate won out in their paper? Their conclusion:
In three studies, at both the individual and society level, we found that a higher rate of profanity use was associated with more honesty.
How Psychologists Found Honesty In Swearing
The researchers wanted to study profanity from two different levels. Both from an individual and societal perspective.
To start, they interviewed over 270 people in their lab with a series of questions. To both evaluate their level of truthfulness, and also inquire as to why they swore. They also performed a linguistic analysis of over 73,000 people and their social interaction on Facebook. Finally, they used that data and measured it against an integrity index for each state.
Most people revealed that they used swearing as a way to express negative emotions and their genuine self. To be honest about their feelings, not insult or intimidate. But the researchers also found that swearing differs from region to region. For example, people from states in the northeast (like Connecticut and Delaware) used profanity more than southern states (like Tennessee and South Carolina).
Looking over the data, the experts said each study showed the same thing:
The consistent findings across the studies suggest that the positive relation between profanity and honesty is robust, and that the relationship found at the individual level indeed translates to the society level.
Why Are People Who Swear More Honest?
The psychologists believe the study shows that the association between swearing and honesty comes down to what you filter out when you communicate with others.
Meaning that those who swear are less likely to filter their language (obviously). It also means they won’t sugar coat their point of view.
And people who don’t swear are more careful about what they say. They are also more likely to say what you want to hear.
In short, people who swear do it to express authenticity, to say what they actually think. They won’t water down their opinion, or their language.
Day to Day Honesty
It should be noted that the study only focused on day to day truthfulness. Not the high stakes types of honesty where lying has larger consequences.
So don’t assume that because someone swears a lot that they’re the most honest person you’ve ever met. They are still capable of being highly unethical.
But on a normal day, in normal siutations, if someone says you look f!%@# good today, you can bet that’s how they honestly feel.