Swearing can be associated with social intelligence, some experts say.
CNN  — 

Polite society considers swearing to be a vulgar sign of low intelligence and education, for why would one rely on rude language when blessed with a rich vocabulary?

That perception, as it turns out, is full of, uh … baloney. In fact, swearing may be a sign of verbal superiority, studies have shown, and may provide other possible rewards as well.

“The advantages of swearing are many,” said Timothy Jay, professor emeritus of psychology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who has studied swearing for more than 40 years.

“The benefits of swearing have just emerged in the last two decades as a result of a lot of research on brain and emotion, along with much better technology to study brain anatomy.”

1. Cursing may be a sign of intelligence

Well-educated people with plenty of words at their disposal, a 2015 study found, were better at coming up with curse words than those who were less verbally fluent.

Participants were asked to list as many words that start with F, A or S in one minute. Another minute was devoted to coming up with curse words that start with those three letters. The study found those who came up with the most F, A and S words also produced the most swear words.

That’s a sign of intelligence “to the degree that language is correlated with intelligence,” said Jay, who authored the study. “People that are good at language are good at generating a swearing vocabulary.”

Swearing can also be associated with social intelligence, Jay added.

“Having the strategies to know where and when it’s appropriate to swear, and when it’s not,” Jay said, “is a social cognitive skill like picking the right clothes for the right occasion. That’s a pretty sophisticated social tool.”

2. Swearing may be a sign of honesty

Science has also found a positive link between profanity and honesty. People who cursed lied less on an interpersonal level, and had higher levels of integrity overall, a series of three studies published in 2017 found.

“When you’re honestly expressing your emotions with powerful words, then you’re going to come across as more honest,” said Jay, who was not involved in the studies.

While a higher rate of profanity use was associated with more honesty, the study authors cautioned that “the findings should not be interpreted to mean that the more a person uses profanity, the less likely he or she would engage in more serious unethical or immoral behaviors.”

3. Profanity improves pain tolerance

Want to push through that workout? Go ahead and drop an f-bomb.

People on bikes who swore while pedaling against resistance had more power and strength than people who used “neutral” words, studies have shown.

Research also found that people who cursed while squeezing a hand vice were able to squeeze harder and longer.

Spouting obscenities doesn’t just help your endurance: If you pinch your finger in the car door, you may well feel less pain if you say “sh*t” instead of “shoot.”

People who cursed as they plunged their hand into icy water, another study found, felt less pain and were able to keep their hands in the water longer than those who said a neutral word.

“The headline message is that swearing helps you cope with pain,” said lead author and psychologist Richard Stephens, in an earlier CNN interview. Stephens is a senior lecturer at Keele University in Staffordshire, England, where he leads the Psychobiology Research Laboratory.

Stephens said it works like this: Cussing produces a stress response that initiates the body’s ancient defensive reflex. A flush of adrenaline increases heart rate and breathing, prepping muscles for fight or flight.

Simultaneously, there is another physiological reaction called an analgesic response, which makes the body more impervious to pain.

“That would make evolutionary sense because you’re going to be a better fighter and better runner if you’re not being slowed down by concerns about pain,” Stephens said.

“So it seems like by swearing you’re triggering an emotional response in yourself, which triggers a mild stress response, which carries with it a stress-induced reduction in pain.”

Careful, however, the next time you decide to extend your workout by swearing. Curse words lose their power over pain when they are used too much, research has also discovered.

Some of us get more out of swearing than others. Take people who are more afraid of pain, called “catastrophizers.” A catastrophizer, Stephens explained, is someone who might have a tiny wound and think, “Oh, this is life threatening. I’m going to get gangrene, I’m going to die.”

“The research found men who were lower catastrophizers seemed to get a benefit from swearing, whereas men who are higher catastrophizers didn’t,” Stephens said. “Whereas with women there wasn’t any difference.”

4. Cussing is a sign of creativity

Swearing appears to be centered in the right side of the brain, the part people often call the “creative brain.”

“We do know patients who have strokes on the right side tend to become less emotional, less able to understand and tell jokes, and they tend to just stop swearing even if they swore quite a lot before,” said Emma Byrne, author of “Swearing Is Good for You.”

Research on swearing dates back to Victorian times, when physicians discovered that patients who lost their ability to speak could still curse.