While profanity is commonly heard in the Observer newsroom, it’s no secret that it’s frowned upon in most social situations. But a new study shows that dropping the occasional F-bomb could actually be a sign of strength.
Researchers at Keele University in (of course) England tested the power of swearing through a series of physical experiments. In the first, 29 participants completed a short, intense workout on an exercise bike—some participants were encouraged to be as profane as possible beforehand, while others were told not to swear at all. In the second, 52 people were asked to tightly hold a handgrip, again after swearing or not swearing.
The results showed that the participants who swore could cycle more powerfully and grip more tightly than those who remained tight-lipped. The increase was slight (only about three to four percent) but still noticeable. Strangely, however, there was no difference in heart rate between the two groups.
Admittedly, these new findings—which were presented at the annual gathering of the British Psychological Society—have not been peer-reviewed and have a small sample size.
But this is not the first Keele study showing swearing’s benefits. In 2009, the team conducted experiments which showed that people who cursed at will could endure pain nearly 50 percent longer than civil-tongued peers.
But the most interesting part of the swearing phenomenon, according to scientists, is that there’s a shitload more left to figure out.
“Quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered,” Dr. Richard Stephens, who led the Keele study, said in a press release. “We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully.”