Monday, 13 Jul, 2009 Science
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Swearing Eases Pain When You Hurt Yourself

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A team of scientists recently revealed what most of us have probably already noticed - they found that swearing may ease pain. Led by Richard Stephens of Blighty's Keele University, the team asked 67 students, who decided to participate in the study, to stick their hands in icy water and then either swear or say something neutral.

Volunteers who swore reported "less pain and on average endured about 40 seconds longer". Researchers believe that the answer could be found in "evolutionarily ancient structures" located in the brain's right hemisphere, including the amygdala, which activates a "fight-or-flight response in which our heart rate climbs and we become less sensitive to pain", reports Scientific American.

According to the scientists the non-offensive language "relies on the outer few millimeters in the left hemisphere of the brain", while swearing is most likely linked to the amygdala which is proved by an increase in the heart rates of the participants as a result of swearing. According to psychologist Steven Pinker of Harvard University, swearing could be an animalistic defense reflex.

"I suspect that swearing taps into a defensive reflex in which an animal that is suddenly injured or confined erupts in a furious struggle, accompanied by an angry vocalization, to startle and intimidate an attacker," he said.

The lead researcher Richard Stephens advises people to swear whenever they hurt themselves.

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