Swearing may be considered impolite and vulgar, but a new two-part study has revealed a more gracious attribute for those with an off-color vocabulary: Honesty. According to the research, people are more likely to swear as a way to express themselves, rather than cause harm to others, and the more an individual swears, the more honest they are likely to be.
The researchers found that while liars are known to prefer third-person pronouns and negative words in their speech, honest individuals are more likely to use profanity. According to the researchers, that's because swearing is often used to express one’s feelings, and people who do this more regularly portray themselves in a more honest light, The Independent reported.
“The consistent findings across the studies suggest that the positive relation between profanity and honesty is robust, and that the relationship found at the individual level indeed translates to the society level,” the study read.
For their report, the team of international researchers asked a group of 276 participants about their swearing habits as well as how honest they were in different situations. In addition, they analyzed the status updates of more than 73,000 Facebook users, measuring for honesty and profanity. In the second study, the same team used previous data to compare the integrity levels of US states with how often they swear. All the experiments had the same result: honesty was associated with higher levels of swearing.
Past research has suggested that swearing may also be a sign of increased intelligence. A 2016 study found that individuals with higher levels of verbal intelligence, that is intelligence associated with oral language, tended to use more swear words.
“Taboo or ‘swear word’ fluency is positively correlated with overall verbal fluency. The more words you generated in one category meant the more words you generated in another category, orally and verbally,” Dr. Timothy Jay, of the Department of Psychology at Massachusetts College Of Liberal Arts and author of the study, previously told Medical Daily .