Pain and cussing are kissing cousins: yes, it’s wrong, but – heck – it feels appropriate to right a physical wrong with a verbal one. Now, new research points to potty mouthing as a palliative for pain.
A research team from Keele University in England found that cursing actually helps to alleviate pain. The researchers set up an experiment using 64 college students. Their original hypothesis was that cursing would amplify the pain because the participant would be focusing on their injury.
The participants were asked to put their hand in freezing water and leave it there for as long as they could. While their hand was in the water, half of the students were told to repeat their favorite swear word, while the others were asked to repeat a neutral word. The experiment was then repeated with the groups switching word categories.
According to MSNBC News:
“…the cursing group not only reported lower levels of pain, but also were able to keep their hands in the icy water longer. The men in the study, for example, were able to keep their hands in the water for an average of 190 seconds while swearing, but for only 140 seconds when uttering a neutral word. The difference was even more pronounced in women. While men’s pain scores dropped by a point when they cussed, the women’s dropped by almost two full points.”
The researchers believe that pain is alleviated because swearing can trigger the body’s natural fight-or-flight response which occurs to help an individual deal with an impending threat. The study is published in the current issue of Neuroreport.