The study, which was published Sunday in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (SPPS), involved a cohort of 276 participants who were asked to list their favorite swear words in order to determine how likely they were to use foul language. They were then given a survey which asked them to agree or disagree with statements like “I never lie” and “all my habits are good” to assess their relative level of honesty in providing the answers.
The researchers found that the most honest participants also had the biggest potty mouths.
“If you’re trying to follow the social norms rather than saying what you think, you are saying what people want to hear,” said Dr. David Stillwell, one of the researchers in the study. “In that respect you are not being very honest.”
The research corroborates previous studies which have linked high levels of swearing to low levels of honesty-related crime.
States such as New Jersey, where people tend to curse a lot, were found to rank highly on the State Integrity Index, whereas Utah and other states where use of bad language is rarer had higher levels of fraud or similar offences.
The researchers also looked at the Facebook postings of 75,000 people where a similar link was found. People who posted short, simple messages were the least likely to use foul language.
According to Stillwell, simple statements are associated with dishonesty, because liars find it hard to formulate complicated sentences. More nuanced language, on the other hand, evidenced by words like “but” and “however,” are commonly agreed to indicate honesty.
People who wrote their Facebook posts in this style were also more likely to swear.
Source: The Telegraph