Emotional arousal improves swearing

People swear more colourfully when they are in a emotionally aroused state; this suggests swearing is closely related to emotion.

This is the finding of a research project, funded by the British Psychological Society’s 2013 Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme, by Amy Zile and Dr Richard Stephens from Keele University.

The study, along with eight other winning research projects, will be presented today (Wednesday 7 May), at the British Psychological Society annual conference hosted at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham.

Amy Zile said: “There is still uncertainty as to why people swear. Is it due to not being articulate and low IQ or it is a form of emotional expression? If it is a form of emotional expression then understanding the processes involved is an important part of understanding human emotion.

"Our study found that when we raised people’s emotional arousal level they became more proficient at swearing such that they were able to produce a greater number of different swear words and expressions in a one-minute period. This provides experimental support for the theory that swearing is emotional language.”

Other recipients of the British Psychological Society’s 2013 Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme are:

‘Does intoxication influence environmental effects on drinking behaviour?’ Marianne Erskine-Shaw and Dr Kate Bennett, University of Liverpool.

‘The impact of a ward-based psychological intervention on outcomes in people with psychosis: a case note review.’
Isabelle Butcher, Cardiff University and Dr Katherine Berry, University of Manchester.

‘Anger, conflict and disagreements in calls to a child protection helpline.’
Kathrina Connabeer and Professor Susan Wilkinson, Loughborough University.

‘Is it just apes that ape? An investigation of social learning in parrots.’
Lauren Hogan and Katie Slocombe, University of York.

‘An exploration of place-identity, memory and well-being in individuals using photo voice.’Holly Walton, Dr Mhairi Bowe and Vivienne Brunsden, Nottingham Trent University.

‘Adolescents who hold misconceptions of psychology perceive greater risk in disclosing to a counsellor.’
Jodie Betham and Dr Niall Galbraith, University of Wolverhampton.

‘Reinforcement sensitivity and callous-unemotional traits in decision-making and risk-taking behaviour in children.’
Sarah Olin and Dr Nadja Heym, University of Nottingham.

‘Investigating the effects of a single dose of fluoxetine on anger processing’ Alexandra Pike and Dr Myra Cooper, University of Oxford.

The Society’s Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme provides researchers with the opportunity to give an undergraduate ‘hands on’ experience of research during the summer vacation. Successful applicants are marked out as a future researcher and potential academic with the expectation that the senior researcher, to whom the award is made, will develop the Research Assistant’s potential and interest in research. Find out more.

The British Psychological Society (BPS) Annual Conference takes place from 7 to 9 May 2014 at the Birmingham International Convention Centre. For details of the programme visit: www.bps.org.uk/ac2014  

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