Anyone who's played a particularly frustrating video game can attest to the therapeutic effect of dropping the F-bomb. The phenomenon has now been scientifically proven, and the man behind the research awarded for his efforts, sort of.

Annals of Improbable Research magazine held the 20th annual Ig Nobel awards last night at Harvard University, and Richard Stephens of Keele University in the UK was one of the recipients. He might not have won the engineering Ig Nobel like Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse, Agnes Rocha-Gosselin and Diane Gendron did for developing a way to harvest whale snot with a remote-controlled helicopter, but his work is just as important.


He and his students proved that swearing is good for you.

The Ig Nobel awards are given to silly-sounding scientific discovers that often have surprising practical applications, just in case you hadn't picked up on that yet.

Stephens first witnessed the effect after hitting his hand with a hammer a few years ago, like some cartoon character. He marveled at how much better he felt after letting fly a string of obscenities. During the same time period and quite unlike a cartoon character, his wife was giving birth to their daughter. She too practiced shouting naughty words at the top of her lungs to help her through the pain.

Intrigued, psychology lecturer Stephens decided to conduct an experiment, hitting his students in the head with a claw hammer to see what happened.


Okay, he didn't hit them in the head. He merely had them hold their hands in a container filled with ice water, to see how long they could stand it. Those with filthy mouths were able to withstand the discomfort longer than those who held it in.

"What we think is when you swear you produce an emotional reaction in yourself, you arouse your nervous system and you set off the fight or flight response," Stephens said. "It gets the heart rate up, gets the adrenaline flowing."


I only wish this research had been around when I was growing up. It would have saved me from countless smacks to the side of the head. "But mom, science says it's okay!"

Obscenity, whale snot take top honors at Ig Nobels []