Academics swear more than expected on Twitter

16 January 2017

A study has revealed that swearing in a tweet is often assumed to be connected to a lack of education, and that this stereotype is not entirely accurate.

In the study, carried out by the University of Pennsylvania, participants were shown a tweet, where all surrounding context – such as name, username and profile picture – had been removed. They were then asked to make certain assumptions about the person who wrote the tweet, for instance their gender, their approximate age and their level of education.

The full study, published in Sage Journals, shows the words which participants most frequently associated with different types of person, and highlights the most common inaccurate stereotypes.

The results (shown as a word cloud) highlight that tweets containing swear words were often incorrectly assumed to be written by someone without a degree. Other words incorrectly assumed not to be written by an academic were ‘wanna’ ‘lol’ and ‘ain’t’. Words such as ‘discussion’ and ‘summit’ were incorrectly assumed to have been written by twitter users with a masters or a PhD.

Another study, carried out by Cambridge University in collaboration with academic institutions across the world has uncovered that people who swear more often are less likely to tell lies. 

Participants in this study were asked to write down their favourite swear words and then took a lie detector test. Those who wrote down more curse words were more often found to be telling the truth.