Study finds sweary people are more honest

Darin Graham@DarinJGraham
Tuesday 02 January 2018 10:00
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Picture:(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

For those of us frequently told off for using foul language - a new defence might work:

I was just being honest.

People who swear may be more trustworthy, according to researchers.

In the three-part study, published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal - an international team led by Gilad Feldman of Maastricht University in the Netherlands analysed swearing in society.

First, the team studied 276 people to find out how they curse. They asked participants to list their favourite swear words and to 'self-report' their everyday use of profanity. Researchers also asked the subjects to note down the emotions they associate with those swear words - anger, exasperation or fear for example.

The foul-mouthed test subjects were also asked to fill in a psychological survey to gauge their honesty which helped rank how likely they were to lie.

The team found that those who lied less wrote down a higher number of frequently used swear words.

The majority of respondents also reported that their swearing was typically used to express negative emotions - like anger.

The researchers note, however, that studying profanity can be tricky. They say the rate of profanity decreases when people know they are being analysed.

This is why, in their second study - researchers turned to social media, drawing from earlier studies which found that Facebook offers a fairly accurate portrayal of a users personality,

Around 70,000 Facebook profiles were analysed with the team focusing on the presence of profanities and other signifiers of honesty online. They used an approach which claims that liars online use fewer first and third-person pronouns like I, me, she and their, and fewer exclusive words like but and exclude.

This model, when first used by a research team in 2003, achieved an accuracy rate of 67% when detecting lies.

The final study looked at existing public records from the US State Integrity Investigation.

The study concludes:

We set out to provide an empirical answer to competing views regarding the relationship between profanity and honesty. 

We found that a higher rate of profanity use was associated with more honesty.

HT Quartz

More: Swearing, staying up too late and being messy are signs of high intelligence

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