The Unexamined Life

Study Shows Dropping The F-Bomb Helps People Feel Less Pain

A new study adds to the growing evidence that swearing offers some benefits. Researchers found that saying “f*ck” could help people feel less pain and even improve tolerance.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, shows that dropping the F-bomb could increase pain tolerance by 33 percent. Researchers said the word “f*ck” has the strongest pain-lessening effect than any other swear words. 

The findings come from a new experiment led by Richard Stephens, a psychologist and researcher from Keele University in England. He has been studying the act of swearing over the past decade, ScienceAlert reported Tuesday.

In an earlier test, Stephens and his colleagues previously found that people swearing helped people perceive decreased pain and tolerate increased pain while their hands were placed in ice water. Several follow-up studies also showed similar effects of using swear words.

In the latest effort, Stephens and his team aimed to determine which words have the greatest effect on pain reduction. They asked people to use either a conventional swear word, like “'f*ck,” a term the participants picked to describe a table, or made-up swear words like “fouch” and “twizpipe.”

Researchers had the participants immerse their hand in a frigid tub of water until it was no longer bearable. They then randomly repeated one of the four swear words every three seconds.

Results showed the made-up swear words did not help in reducing pain perception or improving tolerance during the uncomfortable moment. However, conventional swearing like saying “f*ck” appeared effective in managing pain. 

The F-bomb helped increase pain threshold by 32 percent and raise pain tolerance by 33 percent. The researchers hope to see more studies to further understand how swearing directly helps people. 

"While it is not properly understood how swear words gain their power, it has been suggested that swearing is learned during childhood and that aversive classical conditioning contributes to the emotionally arousing aspects of swear word use," researchers said in the study. "This suggests that how and when we learn conventional swear words is an important aspect of how they function."

Swearing and pain tolerance A 2020 study shows that saying “f*ck” could help people feel less pain and increase their pain tolerance by 33 percent. Pixabay

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