Is swearing good for you?
We generally assume that swearing is offensive, that it’s a sign of a stunted vocabulary or of a limited intellect. Dictionaries have traditionally omitted swear words and parents forbid them around the house. But the latest research by neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, and others has revealed that swear words, curses, and oaths―when used judiciously―can have surprising benefits.
In this sparkling debut work of popular science, Emma Byrne examines the latest research to show how swearing can be good for you. With humor and colorful language, she explores every angle of swearing―why we do it, how we do it, and what it tells us about ourselves. Not only has some form of swearing existed since the earliest humans began to communicate, but it has been shown to reduce physical pain, to lower anxiety, to prevent physical violence, to help trauma victims recover language, and yes, to promote human cooperation!
Taking readers on a whirlwind tour through scientific experiments, historical case studies, and cutting-edge research on language in both humans and other primates, Byrne defends cursing and demonstrates how much it can reveal about different cultures, their taboos and their values.
Packed with the results of unlikely and often hilarious scientific studies―from the “ice-bucket test” for coping with pain, to the connection between Tourette’s and swearing, to a chimpanzee that curses at her handler in sign language―Swearing Is Good for You presents a lighthearted but convincing case for the foulmouthed.
But in addition, Dr. Byrne reveals what we have learned about the brain by studying, for example, stroke patients, or patients undergoing brain surgery, as is revealed by their inability to suppress swearing. This is an interesting part of our discussion that helps us understand specifically what certain parts of the brain, like the amygdala, do.
Let me tell you about Dr. Byrne. She is a scientist, journalist, and public speaker. Her training in AI and computational neuroscience sparked a fascination with the decidedly un-computational ways that our minds work. Her BBC Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’ episode was selected as one of the “best of 2013” by the programme’s editors. She an aluma of the British Science Association Media Fellowship and the BBC Academy’s Expert Women training programme. Her writing credits include the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and The Financial Times, and she has made television and radio appearances in the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Swearing is Good For You is her first book.