Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Swearing Can Actually Increase Pain Tolerance

Date:
July 13, 2009
Source:
Keele University
Summary:
Researchers have determined that swearing can have a ‘pain-lessening effect’, according to new study.

A man in a rage during an argument. Researchers have found that swearing can have a ‘pain-lessening effect.’
Credit: iStockphoto/Thomas Perkins

Researchers from Keele University’s School of Psychology have determined that swearing can have a ‘pain-lessening effect’, according to new study published in the journal NeuroReport.

While swearing is often a common response to pain, Dr Richard Stephens and his colleagues, John Atkins and Andrew Kingston, were surprised to discover that no links had been established between swearing and the actual experience of physical pain. Since swearing often has a ‘catastrophising’ or exaggerating effect, serving to embellish or overstate the severity of pain, Stephens and his team hypothesised that swearing would actually decrease the individual’s tolerance of pain.

The Ice Water Test

Enlisting the help of 64 undergraduate volunteers, the team set out to test their theory. Each individual was asked to submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice; they were then asked to repeat the experiment, this time using a more commonplace word that they would use to describe a table. Despite their initial expectations, the researchers found that the volunteers were able to keep their hands submerged in the ice water for a longer period of time when repeating the swear word, establishing a link between swearing and an increase in pain tolerance.

Fight-Or-Flight Response

While it isn’t clear how or why this link exists, the team believes that the pain-lessening effect occurs because swearing triggers our natural ‘fight-or-flight’ response. They suggest that the accelerated heart rates of the volunteers repeating the swear word may indicate an increase in aggression, in a classic fight-or-flight response of ‘downplaying feebleness in favour of a more pain-tolerant machismo.’ What is clear is that swearing triggers not only an emotional response, but a physical one too, which may explain why the centuries-old practice of cursing developed and still persists today.

Dr Richard Stephens 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.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Keele University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Keele University. "Swearing Can Actually Increase Pain Tolerance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713085453.htm>.
Keele University. (2009, July 13). Swearing Can Actually Increase Pain Tolerance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713085453.htm
Keele University. "Swearing Can Actually Increase Pain Tolerance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713085453.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins