People Who Swear Are More Honest

By Seriously Science | January 4, 2018 1:01 pm

Swearing-at-work-1It’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.”

Related content:
Flashback Friday: Swearing when you hurt yourself actually makes it feel better.
Does cursing at the referee make a penalty more likely?
Which bedtime stories teach kids to be more honest? (Hint: it’s not Pinnochio)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: holy correlation batman!

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