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According To Science: People that swear often make better friends and are more intelligent.

Full disclosure: I swear a lot. I’m the person who loudly swears in public, is informed that children, or other people it’s uncouth to swear around, are present, and lets out a self-effacing expletive. You can’t, I’ve been informed, take me anywhere.

But apparently the qualities that make me so bad at my grandmother’s high-stakes canasta game make me a better friend. Surprised? Read on.

Swearing intelligence friendship

The Multi-Level Study of Swearing

The Schools

You may know the old joke: how many universities does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  If the lightbulb is “reframing public views on curse words,” the answer is apparently four. The first two schools involved you may not have heard of. They’re Maastricht University in the Netherlands and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Good schools, probably, but maybe you’re looking for a name with a little more international pizzaz. How about Stanford University in California? Or England’s Cambridge University? Those schools make up the last members of this joint study. (1)

The Study

The premise of the study is simple: what social behaviors really link people who swear?

There were two parts to the study. First, a lie test given to 276 participants. Then, an analysis of 75,000+ different Facebook users. The research was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science in 2017. (2)

The Results

The results were positive, I swear. I wouldn’t lie to you! And according to the research, that’s the truth. People who swear more are generally more honest. Dr. David Stillwell, co-author of the paper, explains why. “Swearing is often inappropriate,” he admits. “But it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion. Just as they aren’t filtering their language to be more palatable, they’re also not filtering their views. ” (2)

Intelligence and Honesty

Timothy Jay, from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, has written the book on social swearing–literally. Teaming up with Kristin Joy from Marist College, they also focused on swearing. The results? If you swear, you probably have a better vocabulary than if you don’t. In their study, “The Pragmatics of Swearing,” they say that those who swear understand “nuanced distinctions that must be drawn to use slurs appropriately. The ability to make nuanced distinction indicates the presence of more rather than less linguistic knowledge.” They also conducted Facebook studies around swearing and honesty and found the same answers as the multi-level study. Swearing does link up with greater honesty! (3) 

Why We Curse: A Neuro-Psycho-Social Theory Of Speech

In one of Jay’s books, Why We Curse, he also says that swearing tells us the kind of person someone is. It’s a fundamental part of their identity. He writes:

How we use these curse words portrays our deep emotional investment in a personal identity which we use to experience the world, to differentiate ourselves from others, and to express our feelings and attitudes about others. The use of these words tells us who we are and how we fit in the world. We do not just utter curse words; curse words are part of our identities. (4)

Signs of Real Friends

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