Swearing was long dismissed as a serious research topic since it was assumed to be simply an indication of aggression, weak command of the language, and even low intelligence.
Now we’ve loads of evidence that challenges this view, leading us to reconsider the character and power of swearing.
Whether we’re fans of swear words or not, a lot of us are prone to resort to them on occasion.
To estimate the ability of swear words and discover where it comes from, we recently conducted a review of greater than 100 scholarly articles from different disciplines on the subject.
Impact in several areas
The study, published within the scientific journal Lingua, shows that the usage of taboo words can profoundly affect the way in which we expect, act and relate to one another.
People often associate cursing with catharsis, the discharge of strong emotions. Nonetheless, it’s undeniably different and stronger than other types of language use.
Interestingly, for speakers of multiple language, catharsis is nearly all the time more incredible when cursing in the primary language than in any later learned language.
Cursing arouses emotions. This might be measured in various signs, reminiscent of increased sweating and sometimes an increased heart rate.
These changes suggest cursing may trigger the “fight or flight” function.
Neuroscience research suggests that swearing could also be situated in several regions of the brain than other speech regions. Specifically, it might activate parts of the “limbic system” (including the basal ganglia and amygdala).
These deep structures are involved in features of memory and emotion processing, that are instinctive and difficult to inhibit. This may occasionally explain why swear words can remain intact in individuals who have suffered brain damage and have difficulty speaking consequently.
Laboratory experiments also show cognitive effects. For instance, we all know that swear words attract more attention and are higher remembered than other words. But additionally they interfere with the cognitive processing of other words/stimuli, so it seems that swear words can sometimes interfere with considering as well.
This may occasionally repay, a minimum of sometimes. For instance, cursing has produced pain relief in experiments requiring people to dip a hand in ice water. In these studies, vocalizing a swear word results in greater pain tolerance and the next pain threshold than neutral words.
Other studies have found increased physical strength in people after cursing.
But cursing not only influences our physical and mental being but in addition affects our relationships with others. Research in communication and linguistics has shown quite a lot of distinctive social purposes of swear words, from expressing aggression and causing offense to enhancing social bonds, humor, and storytelling.
Swear words may even help us manage our identities, show intimacy and confidence, and increase attention and dominance over other people.
The underside line
Despite having such a remarkable effect on our lives, we currently know little or no about where swear words get their power.
After we hear a swear word in an unfamiliar language, it appears like some other word and can produce none of those results. There may be nothing particular in regards to the sound of the word itself that’s universally offensive.
So, the ability doesn’t come from the words themselves. But, likewise, it will not be inherent within the meanings or sounds of the words: neither euphemisms nor similar-sounding words have such a profound effect on us.
One explanation is that “aversive conditioning,” the usage of punishment to forestall further swearing, generally occurs during childhood. This may occasionally establish a visceral connection between language use and emotional response.
While this hypothesis sounds correct, it is barely weakly evidenced in a handful of studies investigating memories of childhood punishment for swearing.
There are almost no empirical studies of the links between such memories and adult responses to swearing.
To know why swearing profoundly affects us, we want to research the character of individuals’s memories of swearing.
What were their significant incidents with swearing? Did swearing all the time bring unpleasant consequences, reminiscent of punishment, or were there advantages also? What about people’s continuing experiences of swearing throughout life?
In spite of everything that, our research shows that swearing can sometimes help people bond with one another.
We predict it might be possible that swearing shows an identical pattern of memory as music: we remember and like best the songs we heard during adolescence.
That’s because, like music, cursing possibly takes on new meaning in adolescence.
It becomes a meaningful approach to reply to the extraordinary emotions we are likely to have during this time and an act that signals independence from parents and reference to friends. Subsequently, swear words and songs used during this time can develop into eternally linked to meaningful and memorable experiences.
Research must also examine whether there may be a link between memories of cursing and the results observed within the experiments. This might show that individuals with more positive memories respond in another way than those with negative memories.
A final point to contemplate is whether or not cursing will begin to lose its power if it becomes more socially acceptable and, subsequently, will probably be devoid of its offensive character.
For now, nevertheless, it indeed stays a slip-up.