July 14th, 2009 at 12:38pm
Apparently people who are repeating swear words can keep their hands in freezing water for longer than people who are describing tables.
That muttered curse word that reflexively comes out when you stub your toe could actually make it easier to bear the throbbing pain, a new study suggests.
“Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon,” said Richard Stephens of Keele University in England and one of the authors of the new study. “It taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain.”
Stephens and his fellow Keele researchers John Atkins and Andrew Kingston sought to test how swearing would affect an individual’s tolerance to pain.
Because swearing often has an exaggerating effect that can overstate the severity of pain, the team thought that swearing would lessen a person’s tolerance.
As it turned out, the opposite seems to be true.
The researchers enlisted 64 undergraduate volunteers and had them submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice.
The experiment was then repeated with the volunteer repeating a more common word that they would use to describe a table.
Contrary to what the researcher expected, the volunteers kept their hands submerged longer while repeating the swear word.
The researchers think that the increase in pain tolerance occurs because swearing triggers the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response.
The results of the study are detailed in the Aug. 5 issue of the journal NeuroReport.
1. Who pays for these studies?
2. Why do the printed issue dates on magazines almost never reflect the actual issue date (or even the month of issue) of the magazine?
Entry Filed under: Bizarreness