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Study Finds Answer To The Question, ‘Are People Who Swear More Honest?’

Update Date: Jan 17, 2017 09:40 AM EST

The use of profanity is sometimes viewed as being antisocial, harmful and abusive. It violates society's notion of what is moral and pure. On the other hand, people see the use of profanity as an expression of genuine feelings and thus are regarded as being more honest. These contradicting views have led to a study to find the answer to the question, "Are People Who Swear More Honest?"

According to societal norms, people who use profane language or people who swear are widely seen as people who are immoral and are therefore tagged as untrustworthy and potentially anti-social and dishonest individuals. However, the use of profanity also has a positive connotation.

Other people perceive the use of profanity as the conveyance of one's unfiltered thoughts or opinions and are therefore regarded as an expression of genuine and honest feelings or emotions. It is commonly related to the expressions of anger, frustration, or surprise. The use of profanity is also regarded as a show of unbridled passion regarding an object, a view, or a person.

Based on the positive perception of profanity, a study conducted by researchers lead by the University of Cambridge, examined the relationship of profanity and honesty. "Swearing is often inappropriate but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion", explains Dr. David Stillwell, co-author of the study.

The researchers conducted three components of the study in regards to the positive relationship of profanity and honesty. The first study asked its 307 participants to list the most commonly used and favorite swear words, how often they use profanity and the reasons for using profanity. All participants of the first component of the study were then assessed using a Lie Scale.

The second component of the study explored the profanity-honesty relationship in a more natural setting by analyzing Facebook status update using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count tool. A total of 153,716 participants with English Facebook accounts were recruited for the second component of the study.

The last component examined the profanity-honesty relationship on a state level. It explored whether the use of profanity in the individual level affects the society particularly the state level integrity of a place. The average of the profanity scores of the American participants from the second component of the study and state-level profanity through the State Integrity Index 2012 were calculated.

The findings of the study, published in journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, showed that participants of the first component tended to lie less on the Lie Scale if they wrote down a high number of times they used and liked curse words. Self-reported higher use of profanity in the participants' daily lives also showed them to be more honest. The participants reasoned that they use profanity mostly to express negative emotions.

The second component reflected the results of the first component of the study. There was a positive correlation between profanity and honesty after analysis of the participants' Facebook status updates. The researchers indicated that the use of profanity in the status updates denotes less lying and deception.

The same was found on the third component where profanity and state-level integrity have a positive correlation.

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