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I'll be good - I swear

Yet another article from the BPS’s Research Digest caught my eye today.

The article describes a study of people’s reactions to swear words in conversation.

PLEASE BE WARNED THE ARTICLE CONTAINS LANGUAGE THAT SOME MAY FIND OFFENSIVE AND I RECOMMEND THAT PEOPLE UNDER 18 YEARS OLD DO NOT READ IT.

The study saw 138 people rate the offensiveness of a collection of swear words and estimate their own daily use.

“Next the participants read two purported conversations between two 15-year-olds. They were asked to imagine that they were overhearing these conversations, and in each case, they had to rate the first speaker on overall impression, intelligence, trustworthiness, sociability, politeness and likability.”

(As a quick aside, the article describes in a typically BPS professional way how the experiment is put together to try to limit bias – which is a great example for anyone looking at taking up similar research.)

This is the key finding I wanted to share is:

“overall, as well as being judged to be less intelligent and less trustworthy, both males and females who swore were considered to be less likeable, more offensive and more aggressive. Also, speakers (male or female) who swore during a mixed-gender conversation were rated as being less sociable. And males who used swear words in conversation with females were rated as being more offensive.”

So what does this have to do with HR and L&D? Well, it leads me to wonder that in these times of tolerance, where we are encouraged to be ourselves and be expressive – just how does this fit in the workplace scenario?

If someone walks into a job interview, for instance, and started swearing would affect your perception of that person – if so, is it correct to make that judgement?

Or am I over thinking this?

PLEASE BE WARNED THE ARTICLE CONTAINS LANGUAGE THAT SOME MAY FIND OFFENSIVE AND I RECOMMEND THAT PEOPLE UNDER 18 YEARS OLD DO NOT READ IT.

Click here to read the full article

I also learnt that you can't swear in Japanese. I did not know that.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

Gary is an Online Learning Consultant working at DPG.

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