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People who swear tend to be more honest

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Good news for the foul-mouthed

Kathy Griffin In Conversation with Joy Reid Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

I can probably count the number of times I’ve sworn on one hand — which might not be such a good thing, says a new paper suggesting that people who swear more tend to be more honest.

For a study published this week in Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers ran a three-part experiment to find a connection between foul language and telling the truth. Overall, they found that the more you swear, the more you honest you tend to be, and this holds true at both the individual level and the society level.

First, the scientists recruited 276 participants online and asked all of them to report how often they swear (and how much they like it), as well as how honest they consider themselves on a variety of behavioral scales. Second, the scientists analyzed the Facebook statuses of nearly 75,000 people who used a certain app. In the last section, they looked beyond individual people and instead analyzed state-level profanity data compared to state-level integrity data. In all three conditions, more swearing equaled more integrity.

The usual caveats apply. Repeat after me: this is correlation, not causation, so it’s not like swearing more makes you more honest. Recruiting people online isn’t always the most accurate way to get data and, of course, self-reports can be inaccurate. That said, the data was consistent, and it is easy to understand why there might be such a link. Swearing does come with a stigma, so people who are willing to swear a lot probably aren’t too concerned with what others think, so the same trait that makes them swear might make them more likely to be honest.