Presentation Title

OH $H!T: An Anatomical Study

Presenter Information

Lindsey TamFollow

Faculty Mentor

Lynne Milelr

Start Date

18-11-2017 9:15 AM

End Date

18-11-2017 9:30 AM

Location

15-1808

Session

Social Science 1

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

Swearing may be socially unacceptable, but it has adaptive value. From an evolutionary perspective, swearing may have worked as a warning system that cautioned people to be aware of prospective dangers while also enabling the swearer to reduce his/her perception of pain. Neurological research shows that swearing activates the cerebral cortex and subcortical systems, specifically the basal ganglia (Kanske and Kotz: 205). Case studies have also demonstrated that damage to certain brain areas can result in aphasia, Tourette’s syndrome, or coprolalia, all of which cause individuals to swear uncontrollably (Jay 2000: 67). Swearing has also been shown to have a mild hypoalgesic effect: subjects could withstand cold for longer periods when swearing vigorously (Stephens and Umland 2011: 1274-1276). In contrast, when individuals are sworn at, separate physiological systems are activated, including the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (Huang et al. 2015: 38). The HPA releases epinephrine and norepinepherine, which stimulate the “fight or flight” response, preparing the individual for action by releasing glucose and raising blood pressure and heart rate (Wurtman 2002: 11-13). My independent research involved 20 subjects; each was exposed to eight prerecorded statements that either had no swear words or some swear words. The statements were repeated, changing the volume at which they were expressed. Physiological response was measured by a heart rate monitor. The results support the hypothesis that being sworn at activates the fight or flight response; more specifically, the louder and more threatening a phrase was uttered, the higher was the subject’s heart rate. These data, together with published neurological studies, demonstrate the potential evolutionary benefits of our natural physiological response to swearing.

Summary of research results to be presented

For the most part, the research participants displayed a moderate physiological reaction to phrases that contained swear words. A smaller proportion of participants displayed an insignificant reaction to swear words, most of whom tended to be younger in age. According to previous research, this trend may be caused because younger individuals, around the age of 18, tend to be exposed to more swear words than individuals who are 20 and older. The continual exposure to swear words would weaken their response to the stimulus, providing evidence for the theory that people become habituated to swear words. Males showed weaker reactions to swear words as evidenced by their lower change in heart rates. Past studies have observed that males tend to swear more and use more aggressive swear words. The changes in heart rate of the male subjects support the idea that they are more habituated to swearing than females are. Limitations to the study include having a limited amount of participants. To minimize outside influences, experiments were conducted in quiet, empty rooms to reduce the chance of the participants becoming distracted by outside forces. While heart rate was monitored, participants could not see or try to manipulate their pulse. The nervousness participants was taken into account; each trial started with establishing a new baseline to compare heart rate changes after exposure to the verbal stimuli. In all, the results of the experiment support the idea that being sworn at triggers, even if it’s only moderately, a physiological response in humans.

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Nov 18th, 9:15 AM Nov 18th, 9:30 AM

OH $H!T: An Anatomical Study

15-1808

Swearing may be socially unacceptable, but it has adaptive value. From an evolutionary perspective, swearing may have worked as a warning system that cautioned people to be aware of prospective dangers while also enabling the swearer to reduce his/her perception of pain. Neurological research shows that swearing activates the cerebral cortex and subcortical systems, specifically the basal ganglia (Kanske and Kotz: 205). Case studies have also demonstrated that damage to certain brain areas can result in aphasia, Tourette’s syndrome, or coprolalia, all of which cause individuals to swear uncontrollably (Jay 2000: 67). Swearing has also been shown to have a mild hypoalgesic effect: subjects could withstand cold for longer periods when swearing vigorously (Stephens and Umland 2011: 1274-1276). In contrast, when individuals are sworn at, separate physiological systems are activated, including the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (Huang et al. 2015: 38). The HPA releases epinephrine and norepinepherine, which stimulate the “fight or flight” response, preparing the individual for action by releasing glucose and raising blood pressure and heart rate (Wurtman 2002: 11-13). My independent research involved 20 subjects; each was exposed to eight prerecorded statements that either had no swear words or some swear words. The statements were repeated, changing the volume at which they were expressed. Physiological response was measured by a heart rate monitor. The results support the hypothesis that being sworn at activates the fight or flight response; more specifically, the louder and more threatening a phrase was uttered, the higher was the subject’s heart rate. These data, together with published neurological studies, demonstrate the potential evolutionary benefits of our natural physiological response to swearing.