Swearing outbursts 'can lessen pain'
Sunday 12 July 2009
There could be a good reason why hitting one's thumb with a hammer is likely to unleash the Gordon Ramsey within, say scientists.
F-word outbursts, like those the celebrity chef is famous for, can actually lessen pain, according to the researchers.
Swearing may be a good recipe for coping with physical knocks, their study suggests.
Scientists at Keele University in Staffordshire wondered whether swearing might have a psychological effect that increased pain tolerance.
To test the theory they asked 66 volunteer students to submerge a hand into a tube of iced water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice.
At the start of the experiment, participants were asked for "five words you might use after hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer". They were told to use the first swear word on the list.
The study was then carried out again, but instead of swearing the students were asked to use one of "five words to describe a table".
Volunteers were able to keep their hands in the freezing water for significantly longer when they swore.
At the same time their heart rates accelerated and their pain-perception, as measured with a questionnaire, reduced.
The scientists believe swearing triggers a "fight-or-flight" response and heightens aggression.
They wrote in the journal NeuroReport: "Everyday examples of aggressive swearing include the football manger who 'psychs up' players with expletive-laden team talks, or the drill sergeant barking orders interspersed with profanities.
"Swearing in these contexts may serve to raise levels of aggression, downplaying feebleness in favour of a more pain-tolerant machismo".
Dr Richard Stephens, who led the study, said: "Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon. It taps into emotional brain centres and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain.
Our research shows one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists."
South Korea ferry: Sewol captain says he is 'sorry to the people of South Korea' and that he delayed evacuating ship in case passengers 'drifted away'
Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Wreckage could be found within a week as search reaches 'very critical juncture', says minister
Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
Royal Tour 2014: Is the Duchess of Cambridge the only person ever to climb into a fighter jet wearing a dress and high heels?
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 'Natural' energy drink banned for containing erectile dysfunction drug
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Kingdom Tower: Construction of 1km high new world’s tallest building to begin next week in Saudi Arabia
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...