The Sciences

People Who Swear Are More Honest

Swearing-at-work-1

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

It's hard to tell which came first with this study - the title or the study itself. Either way, these authors set out determine whether the use of profanity is associated with honesty or dishonesty. Using a series of three studies, including a linguistic analysis of more than 70,000 interactions on Facebook, they conclude that "profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level and with higher integrity at the society level." But wait! Another group of researchers later responded to this paper, questioning its conclusions and suggesting that "Lie Scales are correlated positively rather than negatively with trait honesty and the relation between profanity use and trait honesty is likely to be negative." Well, damn!

Frankly, We Do Give a Damn: The Relationship Between Profanity and Honesty

"There are two conflicting perspectives regarding the relationship between profanity and dishonesty. These two forms of norm-violating behavior share common causes and are often considered to be positively related. On the other hand, however, profanity is often used to express one’s genuine feelings and could therefore be negatively related to dishonesty. In three studies, we explored the relationship between profanity and honesty. We examined profanity and honesty first with profanity behavior and lying on a scale in the lab (Study 1; N = 276), then with a linguistic analysis of real-life social interactions on Facebook (Study 2; N = 73,789), and finally with profanity and integrity indexes for the aggregate level of U.S. states (Study 3; N = 50 states). We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level and with higher integrity at the society level."

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.