60-Second Science

Profanity Bleeps Physical Pain

A study in the journal NeuroReport finds that using socially unacceptable "swear words" has physical effects that enable the swearer to tolerate pain better. Adam Hinterthuer reports

[The following is a bleeping exact transcript of this podcast.]

Holy @$#%! According to neuroscientists from Britain’s Keele University, dropping the f-bomb can actually relieve physical pain. In the upcoming August 5th issue of the journal NeuroReport, the researchers say swearing is a different phenomenon than most language. It activates emotional centers in the right side of the brain, rather than those &#*@ing cerebral areas reserved for regular #$#y communication in the left hemisphere.

The researchers had groups of undergraduate students submerge their hands in a tub of witch$@&#* cold water and repeat the swear word of their choice. And students could tolerate the icy abyss much longer than when they were only allowed to say more socially acceptable words. The researchers say the foul-mouthed students also had increased heart rates, which indicates that swearing activates a &#*@ing classic “fight or flight” response. You know, when you act all bad$(# to downplay the fact that you’re scared @$#%^ss.

The study suggests that swearing is an ancient social phenomenon with both emotional and physical effects. And also that socially acceptable words don’t mean @$#% when your pain really hurts like a son-of-a-%@&$#. 

> Related Article: Why the #$%! Do We Swear? For Pain Relief

—Adam Hinterthuer

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