There are two types of people in this world: those who abhor potty mouths, and those who have turned the use of four-letter words into an art form. If you lean toward the latter side, you’re probably not afraid to admit it—and now, thanks to a little help from science, we know why. As Medical Daily reports, a new, two-part study conducted by a team of international researchers from Stanford, University of Cambridge, Maastricht University, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology suggests that people who can easily let loose with a string of obscenities are likely more honest as well.
For the first part of the study, the team conducted interviews with 276 subjects from across the U.S., recruited on Amazon Mechanical Turk, to get to the bottom of both their swearing habits—namely, their favorite curse words and how often they use them—and just how honest they are by asking them about blame-placing, game-playing, and other activities that help determine trustworthiness.
For the second part, the team analyzed the status updates of nearly 75,000 Facebook users, looking for linguistic indicators of deception, such as the use of third-person pronouns and more negative words, as determined by a 2003 report published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. [PDF]
“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,” the study [PDF] concluded.
While swearing may sound uncouth to some, the researchers see it more as an honest form of expression—not anger or malice—and determined that the more curse words that come out of a person’s mouth, the more truthful he or she is likely to be, as swearing itself is a form of candid talk.
"You might think if someone is swearing a lot, this is a negative social behavior," study co-author David Stillwell told the Daily Mail. “On the other hand, they are not filtering their language so they are probably also not putting their stories about what is going on through similar filters which might turn them into untruths."
It’s not the first time researchers have delved into dirty talk: A 2016 study published in Language Sciences [PDF] determined that people who swear a lot may possess a higher verbal intelligence, while a 2014 study showed that swearing can actually provide pain relief.
[h/t: Medical Daily]