The More You Swear, the More Honest You Are

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This snow monkey keeps it real. Photo: Jeremy Woodhouse/Blend Images/Getty Images

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you’re really going to express yourself in moments of surprise, frustration, or other injective emotions, you might need to throw in a fuck, shit, or goddamnit to get the point across. Profanity and transparency co-occur; to tell it like it is can require coarse language.

These are the takeaways from a study in Social Psychological and Personality Science recently highlighted by Dana Dovey at MedicalDaily. The paper (with the perfect title, “Frankly, we do give a damn: The relationship between profanity and honesty”) sussed out the relationship between swearing and honesty over three experiments.

The first was with 276 participants recruited online, who self-rated their penchants for honesty and swearing; the second analyzed the status updates of 73,789 Facebook users who used the myPersonality application; and the third measured the integrity of entire states by combining the Facebook data with “state-level” integrity measures like the presence of independent ethics commissions and judicial accountability.(Falling right in line, the sweariest state — Connecticut — also had the highest integrity.)

These consistent findings suggest that the “relation between profanity and honesty is robust,” write lead author Gilad Feldman and his colleagues, “and that the relationship found at the individual level indeed translates to the society level.”

Relatedly, swearing with — and maybe at — someone is also a good way to bond with them.

The More You Swear, the More Honest You Are