Objective vs Subjective Reporting

For the last few days I have kept running into an interesting study. Interesting, because it supposedly makes the act of swearing OK, under certain circumstances. Now I’m not going to try and argue whether swearing is either good or bad, because it is, at it’s core, a subjective argument. A person who swears is not automatically the scum of the earth, nor is a person who never swears the epitome of goodness and decency.

However I did have some reservations about what I heard the media spouting, and did some research on my own. What I found supported my doubts about what I had heard and read so far, and more importantly, the tone and interpretation of the many of articles I read demonstrated, rather plainly, the difference between truly objective reporting, and just being someone elses mouthpiece.

The article in question (which echoed the vast majority of the others I read) was this one. And I quote:

Bad language could be good for you, a new study shows. For the first time, psychologists have found that swearing may serve an important function in relieving pain. – [Scientific American]

What? Swearing could be good for me? Really? NO WAI!!In essence, these folks are saying that *swearing* by means of initiating an elevated physiological “fight or flight” response in the body, may serve the function of pain relief.

My thoughts? No. Just… No. Before the potty mouthed among you nod your head and say “I knew it!!” I think I ought to mention that the above conclusion is utter and complete nonsense. Why? Because that conclusion ignores all the other things that can trigger a “Flight/Flight” response, and derives the misleading conclusion that *swearing* is good for you.

However it is not that simple. Just because there is a correlation between action A and result B, does not mean that action A caused result B. To explain a little further what I am talking about here is an excerpt from a much more objective article on the study:

Scientists have discovered that uttering swear words can help to lessen the feeling of physical pain. – [UK Telegraph]

Some of you may be thinking… “Now hold on a second there… Those two articles are saying essentially the same thing.” Are they? I’d beg to differ. Here’s the difference: The first article is telling us that bad language is “good” for you. The second article, in contrast, makes no subjective statement (neither good nor bad) about swearing at all, and simply states the observed facts. That uttering swear words can help lessen the feeling of pain. See the difference?

Why is this important? Well I’ll tell you. It’s because it is not the swear words that initiate the fight or flight response. That’s why. That is just nonsense. Human beings have a natural tendency to cry out when in pain. *That* is natural. That response, is what initiates the fight or flight response, which in turn increases the bodies heart rate, adrenaline levels, etc, which allows us to tolerate greater pain levels. HOWEVER, that response could be accompanied by any number of things, yelling, screaming, stamping ones feet on the ground, clenching ones fists, punching walls, etc, etc, etc.

In fact yelling “GREAT BIG BUCKETS OF FUDGE!!!” at the top of your lungs would get you the same effect, and while it would be rather annoying to those around you, I don’t think that would be considered swearing. The key here is that it is healthier to let it out, than to bottle it in. Again, the key word here being “healthy” not good or bad.

But another point to remember is that the more you swear, the less effective it is at initiating a fight or flight response to any given stimuli. So if anything, people should not be so quick to swear.

As a side note, I seem to remember reading or hearing somewhere, that swearing is what people do when they don’t have the words to say what they are feeling. I can’t argue that point. But I think perhaps swearing might not really be necessary if more people had a larger vocabulary to draw from.

I’m just saying… :P

Why the #$%! Do We Swear? For Pain Relief – [Scientific American]

Swearing can reduce the feeling of pain – [UK Telegraph]

2 thoughts on “Objective vs Subjective Reporting

  1. I respect your objective approach to the subject.
    However, you lost me at “Again, the key word here being “healthy” not good or bad.”

    When did being healthy (a state of being that promotes life) become not good?

  2. This is a good question. Certainly, expressing oneself in a healthy manner could be considered, by many standards, a good thing. However I have specifically avoided saying that doing a healthy thing is inherently good or bad either, because it depends on what you consider a “good” outcome. In reality, there are some situations where being healthy in one way can have negative repercussions in others.

    So from my perspective, it is better to evaluate any given action based on the consequences of that action for any given scenario, than to presume any inherent goodness or badness of the action itself.

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