Swearing Can Help Relieve Pain, Especially If You Usually Avoid It

The Telegraph (U.K.) is reporting that researchers from Britain's Keele University have come to the conclusion that swearing increases one's tolerance for pain. The researchers theorize that this may in fact offer an evolutionary explanation for why people use bad language:

Scientists from Keele University found that letting forth a volley of foul language can have a powerful painkilling effect, especially for people who do not normally use expletives.

To test the theory, student volunteers placed their hands in a bucket of ice cold water while swearing repeatedly.

They then repeated the exercise but, instead of swearing, used a harmless phrase instead.

Researchers found that the students were able to keep their hands submerged in the icy water for longer when repeating the swear word -- establishing a link between swearing and an increase in pain tolerance.

They also found that the pain-numbing effect was four times more likely to work in the volunteers who did not normally use bad language.

The team believes the pain-lessening effect occurs because swearing triggers the ''fight or flight'' response.

Read the full story at The Telegraph.

Presented by

Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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