Research Shows That People Who Use Profanity Are More Honest Than Those Who Don’t

That’s some great f***ing news.

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When people hear someone curse out loud in public, their knee-jerk reaction may be to think they’re rude or obnoxious. However, according to a new study from the Netherlands, there’s one positive trait people should ascribe to them: honesty. The Department of Work and Psychology in Maastricht University conducted three studies about profanity on an individual, social media, and societal level and all three agreed that people who swear are more honest.

“The consistent findings across the studies suggest that the positive relation between profanity and honesty is robust,” Gilad Feldman from the Department of Work and Psychology in Maastricht University said in a paper to be published in the Journal of Psychological and Personality Science. “The relationship found at the individual level indeed translates to the society level,” he continued.

University researchers set out to resolve a major conflict about swearing within social science circles. One school of thought is that because profanity is taboo, people who swear may be more likely to break other societal norms. Conversely, studies show that people who swear are often found to be more authentic than those who do not. On the individual level, the researchers asked 276 people how often they cursed and administered an Eysenck Personality Questionnaire to gauge their honesty. “Profanity and honesty were found to be significantly and positively correlated, indicating that those who used more profanity were more honest in their Facebook status updates,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers then examined 70,000 social media interactions and compared the frequency of profanity use to the amount of honesty markers within their conversations. These also led researchers to the same conclusion: people who use profanity are more honest. Finally, researchers looked at the issue on a societal level by examining the 2012 Integrity Analyses of 48 U.S. states and compared them to profanity data from the Facebook study. The study revealed that states such as New Jersey that scored high on profanity use also scored highest on the integrity analysis. States where residents avoided profanity such as South Carolina had lower scores in governmental integrity and openness.

“We set out to provide an empirical answer to competing views regarding the relationship between profanity and honesty,” the researchers wrote. “In three studies, at both the individual and society level, we found that a higher rate of profanity use was associated with more honesty.” So the next time you’re unsure whether someone is being honest with you, pay attention to the words they choose. If they use a lot of profanity they’re more likely to be someone you can trust.


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