Science

S#!t yeah! Swearing makes you stronger

S#!t yeah! Swearing makes you ...
Recent tests have demonstrated that swearing can make you stronger
Recent tests have demonstrated that swearing can make you stronger
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Recent tests have demonstrated that swearing can make you stronger
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Recent tests have demonstrated that swearing can make you stronger
Recent tests have demonstrated that swearing can make you stronger
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Recent tests have demonstrated that swearing can make you stronger

If you've ever lifted something unexpectedly heavy while uttering coarse expletives, you'll be happy to learn that psychologists have now shown that swearing aloud actually makes you a little bit stronger.

A few years ago Dr Richard Stephens at Keele University determined that swearing can have a pain-lessening effect. Across a pain tolerance study Dr Stephens discovered that subjects could submerge their hand in ice water for a longer period of time when repeating a swear word of their choice.

As a follow-up the team recently conducted two more experiments to try and understand the broader effects of swearing on strength. The first test looked at anaerobic power, testing 29 subjects to a short run on an exercise bike. The second experiment involved 52 participants undergoing an isometric handgrip test.

The participants undertook both tests twice, once while repeating a neutral word and then while repeating a swear word of their choice. Similar to Dr Stephens' previous pain tolerance study, the participants were directed to utter that swear words in a calm tone.

Across both experiments it was shown that swearing increased strength, either by way of greater power in the first cycling test or a stronger handgrip in the second test.

The new study still leaves us with the mystery of why swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance. After the earlier pain tolerance experiments Dr Stephens hypothesized that swearing could stimulate the body's sympathetic nervous system, which would certainly result in the observed mild increases in strength and pain tolerance. But in the latest study the team found no evidence of a stimulated sympathetic nervous system.

"When we measured heart rate and some other things you would expect to be affected if the sympathetic nervous system was responsible for this increase in strength, we did not find significant changes. So quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered," said Dr Stephens.

While the mystery as to why swearing making you stronger still remains, this latest study offers a little of bit of scientific justification to back you up next time you swear really loudly when trying to move something heavy.

Source: British Psychological Society via Eurekalert

5 comments
ljaques
That's a gigantic and detailed cross-section of humanity in these tests: 29 and 52 people. Fookin' Fantastic! Were they all drunk at the gym when the idea for this study was formed and took place? Oh, and the magical mystery -key- to this phenomenon is known as "focus". You might want to write that down, BPS.
Bob Flint
Oh I can see some truth in that, especially after hitting one's thumb while using a hammer......adrenalin & expletives kick in all at once, and BOOM, SMASH, SMASH, SMASH.....nothing to do with alcohol or drugs....amazing spontaneous energy release.
KaiserPingo
While the brain is occupied with saying words, the focus on pain is lessened.
KungfuSteve
This is just the Psychopathic Narcissist trying to justify their horrible lack of any self control. The studies are complete and utter junk science. Cursing is negative, and it has a negative effect on both the body, and the undisciplined mind, from which it came. It also pollutes the world, who are forced to have to hear and or deal with such people.
TAH
While I appreciate the detail of this article, the research misses the point a little. It isn't that swearing makes you stronger, it is the processes involved with how our rather multitask limited brains can handle priority. For instance, putting your hands in ice cold water can be managed longer through misdirection. You turn your focus on a specific mindset - swearing works if you're feeble minded and lack any other vocabulary but equally if you repeated 'ee, ee, ee' over and over in a raised voice and wince a little, your mind is not focusing on the pain of the cold, it is focusing on saying the word over and over... thus noticing less the pain in your hands. Eventually, repeating 'whatever' will be overcome by the growing intensity of pulsating nerve endings in your fingers. For those with more discipline, all of this can be controlled internally without the need for expletive or some other vocal release.