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Study reveals swearing provides tolerance toward pain and makes individuals stronger

May 5, 2017

The study conducted by Dr Richard Stephens, from Keele University, and David Spierer and Emmanuel Katehis, from Long Island University Brooklyn, reveals that swearing aloud makes individuals stronger.

The team carried out two experiments. In the first experiment, 29 participants took part in an anaerobic power test comprising of a short, forceful, time period on an exercise bike. This test was carried out first after participants had sworn and was then completed again after not swearing. 52 participants took part in the second experiment comprised of an isometric handgrip test—after both swearing and not swearing.

The study results proved that when the participants swore, more power was produced (in the first experiment) and the handgrip was stronger (in the second experiment).

Dr Stephens explained that they were aware from earlier study results that swearing provides individuals with the extra ability to bear pain. The possible reason for this could be the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system of the body which makes the heart pound when we are in danger.

If that is the reason, we would expect swearing to make people stronger too — and that is just what we found in these experiments. But when we measured heart rate and some other things you would expect to be affected if the sympathetic nervous system was responsible for this increase in strength, we did not find significant changes.”

Dr Richard Stephens, Keele University

Dr Stephens concluded that the reason why swearing has these effects on strength and tolerance toward pain remains to be discovered and they are yet to understand the power of swearing completely.

About the study

The annual conference of the British Psychological Society took place from 3-5 May at the Hilton Brighton Metropole and as a part of the symposium, “Assessing the efficacy and feasibility of emotional expressiveness interventions” Dr Richard Stephens from Keele University presented the conclusion of the research in the paper title, “Effect of swearing on strength and power performance.”

About British Psychological Society

The British Psychological Society is the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK, and is responsible for the promotion of excellence and ethical practice in the science, education, and practical applications of the discipline. As a society, BPS supports and enhances the development and application of psychology for the greater public good, setting high standards for research, education, and knowledge and disseminating knowledge to increase the wider public awareness of psychology and its importance.

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