(NewsNation) — It is a good thing for lawmakers in Washington, D.C. there is no swear jar on Capitol Hill, because politicians are getting more comfortable than ever about letting profanities fly in public.
A study by GovPredict, showed that lawmakers have drastically increased the number of times they have used curse words, particularly the “F-bomb” on the social media platform Twitter since 2016. In 2016 politicians swore on Twitter just 193 times, in 2017 that number jumped to 1,571 and climbed again to 2,578 in 2018.
So what is behind the uptick in politicians swearing out in the open?
There may be some voter/viewer psychology involved, according to University of California-San Diego professor Ben Bergen, who wrote “What the F,” a book about the psychology of swearing.
“When you hear profanity your body reacts and it reacts in a strong way,” Bergen said. “You release adrenaline, you start to sweat, your heartrate increases, blood pressure increases, your pupils dilate, you are ready to fight or to flee.”
That bodily reaction is the exact type of thing a politician is looking to invoke, Bergen said.
“You’re now ready to pay attention to their message, to what they’re saying, and you will hear much more clearly than you would otherwise what they’re trying to communicate,” Bergen said.
The consequences to that swearing are not always positive, however. The politicians’ audience makes a key difference. Cursing around people who are already prepared to agree with you can draw a positive group reaction, Bergan said.
“Politicians who use profanity are interpreted by ingroup members as being more truthful, as being more direct and as being more honest,” Bergen said.
Swearing in front of detractors however can have a much different outcome for politicians.
“Outgroup members will interpret them as being out of control, unhinged, overly emotional, and unable to follow social mores,” Bergen said.
Politicians swearing is no new phenomenon, Bergen says, but in the past the profanity has been kept mostly behind closed doors. Now politicians are letting it loose for the world to hear.