If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to swear less, you might want to reconsider, as a new study has shown that people who swear more are also more honest.
The study – titled ‘Frankly, we do give a damn: The relationship between profanity and honesty’ – was carried out by researchers from the universities of Maastricht, Hong Kong, Stanford in California and Cambridge.
Researchers “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”.
276 participants took part in the study which first measured the relationship between profanity and lying in a lab setting using a test and a lie scale widely used by scientists.
The investigation was then widened to a real-world setting, recruiting 73,789 participants via a Facebook application.
A third study took the investigation wider still – to state level. This averaged the profanity scores of participants from the Facebook study across the states they came from.
All three studies indicated that those who swear more, lie less.
Researchers believe that those who swear more are less likely to filter their language, so they are less likely to filter the truth too.
“There are two ways of looking at it. You might think if someone is swearing a lot, this is a negative social behaviour seen as a bad thing to do, so if someone swears they are probably a bad person as well,” David Stillwell, Deputy Director of The Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge and a co-author of the study, told the Daily Mail.
“On the other hand, they are not filtering their language so they are probably also not putting their stories about what is going on through similar filters which might turn them into untruths.
“That is what we seemed to land on in this study: that people who use the language that comes to mind first are less likely to be playing games with the truth.”
It’s not just honesty that swearing is a marker of. A different study published last year by Marist College, New York, suggested that those who swore more were more intelligent – as a larger vocabulary of profanity was an indicator of a larger vocabulary overall.