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Swearing in Political Discourse: Why Vulgarity Works

Article (PDF Available) inJournal of Language and Social Psychology 33(5) · May 2014
DOI: 10.1177/0261927X14533198
Nicoletta Cavazza at Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia
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  • Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia
Margherita Guidetti at Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia
  • 17.61
  • Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia
Abstract
An experimental study investigated the effect of politicians’ profanity and gender on their perceived and actual persuasiveness. showed that a candidate’s use of swear words increased the perception of language informality and improved the general impression about the source. The latter effect was particularly strong for male candidate, as female candidate was already evaluated positively, irrespective of her cursing. In addition, though the manipulation of the politician’s vulgarity did not directly affect participants’ self-reported likelihood of voting for him or her, an indirect effect through language informality and impression about the candidate emerged. On the contrary, profanity use reduced perceived persuasiveness of the message, suggesting that the influence of swearing could be automatic and unaware. Theoretical implications are discussed.
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Table 2. Effects of Inclusion of Swear Words in a Political Message on Language Evaluation, Impressions about the Author, Behavioral Intention, and Perceived Persuasiveness (means, standard deviations in parenthesis). 
Effects of Inclusion of Swear Words in a Political Message on Language Evaluation, Impressions about the Author, Behavioral Intention, and Perceived Persuasiveness (means, standard deviations in parenthesis).
Table 2).