Volume of Cursing on Persuasion: F@#k yeah or f@#ck no?

The act of swearing or cursing seems to hold a lot of mysteries. Firstly, it is hypothesized that our human brain is actually hard-wired to do it (Pinker, 2007). Woah! Pinker further says that cursing is akin to the startled meow of cats whenever you step on their tails. What’s even more amazing is that there have been seen benefits of cursing, ranging from individual ones such as relieving emotional and physical pain (Stephens, Atkin, & Kingston, 2009) and large-scale benefits such as increased speaker persuasiveness and intensity (Scherer & Sagarin, 2006), among others. Such benefit has been exploited by advertisers and below are some cool examples of how cursing was used to drive up sales in a creative way:

Isn’t that amazing? Who would have known there would be many benefits to saying foul words?

Now researcher students from the University of the Philippines- Diliman Acoba, Lastimoza, Sayo and Velasco (2012) turned their attention on this strange phenomenon of cursing = increased persuasion. Since it was for a Perception class, they were especially curious on the effect of loud volume of cursing and its effect on persuasiveness. You see, it was found that increased volume of a message could translate to effectivity in persuading someone to agree with you (Packwood, 1974; Hall, Coats & LeBeau 2005; Van Iersel 2012). The researchers hypothesized that if we combine both qualities of a communicator (cursing and increased volume), it would also equate to increased persuasiveness. Pretty interesting, huh?! But how did the study turn out? We’ll find out soon.

Their study had 3 conditions: (1) control condition, where participants did not hear any curse word; (2) normal condition, where the volume of the curse word was the same as the volume of the rest of the words in the argument and (3) loud condition, where the volume of the curse word was significantly louder than the rest of the words in the argument. There were 98 participants randomly distributed among the 3 conditions. They then made them listen to a certain speech reflecting the 3 conditions as stated above, with the curse word inserted near the end of the whole speech. After that, they were asked to answer a 10 item Likert type scale measuring induced persuasiveness on behavioral, cognitive and affective dimensions. Using a one-way ANOVA, the results proved to be insignificant, with an F of 1.391. The researchers had to reject their hypothesis that the condition with loud cursing would induce a much higher persuasive effect than the other conditions.

The research was very interesting and it poses many implications in the applied setting. For one, we now know that a loud curse might not be as effective as we think it is, so we should avoid doing that, be it on a personal (like on speeches, pitches, etc) or large-scale (advertising, campaigns, etc) level. In fact, it might also be detrimental to a person or institution’s credibility, as hypothesized by the researchers (Acoba, et al, 2012).

This research teaches us that we should be careful next time we spout a curse word (a loud one at that!) as it might hurt both others’ personal perception of you and the idea or product you are selling. Moreover  we could learnt that two things which elicit similar effects, if combined, might not be as effective as we would think it would be. How about that for a take-home point?


Acoba, J. B., Lastimoza, R., Sayo, L. E., Velasco, E. M., (2012). Effects of Cursing Volume in Persuasion. Unpublished manuscript.

Hall, J., Coats, E., & LeBeau, L. (2005). Nonverbal behavior and the vertical dimension of social relations: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 898-924.

Packwood, W. (1974). Loudness as a variable in persuasion. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 21(1),1-2.

Pinker, S. (2007). The stuff of thought: language as a window into human nature. New York: Viking.

Scherer, C., & Sagarin, B. (2006). Indecent influence: The positive effects of obscenity on persuasion. Social Influence, 1(2), 138-146.

Stephens, R., Atkins, J. & Kingston, A. (2009). Swearing as a response to pain. NeuroReport, 20, 1056-1060.

Van Iersel, B., (2012). Powerful agents: enhancing an artificial social agent’s persuasiveness by increasing its perceived social power. Eindhoven University of Technology, 1, 1-12.



BOTO BOTO sa Langit: An Explanation

In our previous post, we made a poster that aims to increase the rate of voter registration in the upcoming 2013 elections. Since we’re taking our perception class this semester, we attempted to incorporate certain concepts we’ve learned from class that could aid in promoting this relevant issue. And these are the following:

ATTENTIONAL CAPTURE. Let’s admit it, many people find campaign materials boring. So, even though you have stated the most brilliant idea in your poster, it is quite sad to think that some people would not even want to spend a minute or two analyzing it. Because of that, we have decided to apply attentional capture. If you have clicked our poster, you would have seen the movement of the pictures. Since we have learned that movement captures attention, we hope that by doing so, more people will be encouraged to read and understand the message that our poster is trying to convey.

APPARENT MOTION. As we have mentioned earlier, clicking our poster would allow you to see it moving. However, this type of motion is just an illusion called apparent motion. The black and white pictures did not really transform to colored pictures. Instead, these were just two stationary pictures that were flashing on and off. This was done in order to apply the concept of attentional capture which was discussed earlier.

FAMILIARITY. The first thing that you’d notice in our poster is the block of pictures right in the middle. We chose these images since, the familiarity of the pictures, such as the faces of Gloria Arroyo and Jessie Robredo and the depiction of different scenes and situations in the Philippines, can increase the attention that people will pay to the poster. We did this because we know that since people have a previous representation about what these images portray, it becomes likely for them to take a look at the pictures more since they have associated it with some sort of meaning as compared to showing an unknown image or stimulus. The emotions or meaning that they’ve associated with these images tend to make them remember the image more in their heads.

COLOR. As you may have noticed, we chose to use achromatic colors on the pictures that depict the current issues in our country. This was done in order to emphasize that our current situation is problematic and dull. On the contrary, we have used chromatic colors on the positive events because we wanted to give emphasis to the positive changes that can be done if we exercise our right to vote.

As we have seen, persuading people does not end with a catchy statement. The poster itself should reel in the audience through its elements and physical appeal. Making our poster through the knowledge of sensation and perception, we hope to service the Filipino people and give back our knowledge in an applied setting. Let’s all vote on 2013 and make that difference! 😀

Goldstein, E. B. (2010). Sensation and perception (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Myers, D. G. (2010). Social psychology (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

BOTO BOTO sa Langit: Magrehistro Ngayong 2013 Elections!

Nalalapit na naman ang halalan sa Pilipinas. Nakapagrehistro ka na ba? Kung hindi pa, magparehistro na! Nasasayo ang kapalaran ng bayan. Your vote counts, ika nga. Kaya naman ang tanong: ngayong 2013, makikialam, makikilahok, at boboto ka ba?

Iklik ang poster para makita itong gumalaw!

Less Sweet when Stressed

On one hand, though reward may be much sweeter when earnest effort has been made in its pursuit (well, at least according to a certain Michael J. Powell), on the other hand, however, the resulting stress from exerting too much effort won’t make food taste any sweeter.

This has been the finding made by Al’absi, Nakajima, Hooker, Wittmers, & Cragin (2012) when they examined the effects of stress on taste perception. In their experiment, participants had to undergo two laboratory sessions: one stress and one control rest session. The stressors included public speaking (4-minute speech preparation and 4-minute delivery), 8-minute mental arithmetic task, and 90-second cold pressor test (immersion of nondominant hand in ice water).

Cardiovascular, hormonal, and mood measures were collected during the experiment; and, by the end of each session, participants had to rate the intensity and pleasantness of sweet, salty, sour, and savory solutions at suprathreshold concentrations.

Results have shown that the reported intensity of the sweet solution was significantly lower for the stress session than for the rest session. Participants also exhibited expected changes in cardiovascular, hormonal, and mood measures in response to stress. Furthermore, cortisol levels poststress have shown to be a possible predictor of the reduced perceived intensity of salty and sour tastes, thereby suggesting that stress-related changes in the adrenocortical activity were related to reduced taste intensity.

The attenuation of the taste perception during stressful situations may help explain why some resort to stress eating, one being that their thresholds are not fully met, especially with the chemical changes in the body brought about by the stressful situation. More generally, the research could contribute to the continuously growing body of knowledge concerning the relationship of stress and appetite, as such influence of stress on taste perception has the great capability to change the way we eat and perceive food.


Al’absi, M., Nakajima, M., Hooker, S., Wittmers, L., & Cragin, T. (2012). Exposure to acute stress is associated with attenuated sweet taste. Psychophysiology, 49(1), 96-103.

Blind as a Bat, Deaf as a Post

Would individuals with poor eyesight agree with me when I say that without our visual correction devices (e.g., eyeglasses, contact lenses), not only are we almost blind but, to a certain extent, deaf as well?

If only I looked this fierce with my glasses on, I would probably never forget to wear them anymore… Source

As it turns out, the link between vision and hearing in the field of speech perception is not as blurred as my eyesight. Through their research, Sweeny, Guzman-Martinez, Ortega, Grabowecky, & Suzuki (2012) were able to demonstrate that while perceiving speech, people see mouth shapes that are systematically associated with sounds.

Usually, experiments would test how looking at a mouth would influence hearing of speech. In the experiment of Sweeny et al. (2012), however, they tested if hearing speech sounds would have an influence on how shapes are seen.

Sweeny et al. (2012)

Working on the knowledge that a horizontally elongated mouth would typically produce a /wee/ sound, and that a vertically elongated mouth would typically produce a /woo/ sound, the experimenters made use of horizontally elongated (flat) and vertically elongated (tall) ellipses in place of mouths so that the participants would not be aware of the relationship between the sounds and the aspect ratios.

There were three conditions: consistent-sound (flat ellipse was presented with a /wee/ sound; tall ellipse was presented with a /woo/ sound); inconsistent-sound (flat ellipse with /woo/ sound; tall ellipse with /wee/ sound); and, environmental-sound (ellipse presented with an environmental sound of no relation to speech or mouth shape; i.e., door shutting and ice cracking).

Results have shown that in the consistent-sound condition, perceived elongation was larger relative to both the inconsistent sounds and the environmental sounds. Simply put, hearing a /woo/ sound increases the apparent vertical elongation of a shape, and a /wee/ sound increases the apparent horizontal elongation. Since none of the participants reported awareness of the sound-shape associations or knowledge that the shapes could have been interpreted as mouths, the results also suggest that the crossmodal shape exaggeration occurs implicitly.

The findings of this study would be helpful in communicating effectively with others. Knowing that what we see can influence what we hear and vice versa, clearly articulating what we say would be beneficial in relating with others. Such findings are also helpful in educating those with learning disabilities, as clear speech has the capacity to make them better understand what they are told. It is also useful in communicating with elders who may have difficulty hearing or seeing, thus using the appropriate technique in talking to them would help make conversations with them less troublesome and confusing.


Sweeny, T.D., Guzman-Martinez, E., Ortega, L., Grabowecky, M., & Suzuki, S. (2012). Sounds exaggerate visual shape. Cognition, 124(2), 194-200.

Roles of Novelty, Violation of Expectation, and Stimulus Change in Auditory Distraction

Students! Have you ever wondered why a loud thud could easily sidetrack us from listening to the professor? Or how the subtle but sudden beep of our phones could quickly distract us from studying?

Well, aside from the fact that these activities could get mind-numbing when done for a prolonged period of time, numerous studies have demonstrated that unexpected novel sounds could involuntarily take our attention off of the task at hand (e.g., Jankowiak & Berti, 2007; Parmentier, Elsley, & Ljungberg, 2010; Bell, Dentale, Buchner & Mayr, 2010).

However, Parmentier, Elsley, Andrés, & Barceló (2011) begged to differ and said that novel sounds do not capture attention because of their novelty per se. To this, they proposed three hypotheses:

  1. Low base-rate probability. Novel sounds capture attention because they are rare, thereby triggering the detection of change.
  2. The expectation hypothesis. Novel sounds capture attention because they violate the cognitive system’s expectation about upcoming events.
  3. The local perceptual change hypothesis. Novel sounds capture attention because they differ perceptually from the preceding stimulus.

In order to test the hypotheses, the researchers made use of a cross-modal oddball task in which participants categorized the parity of visually presented digits. An auditory stimulus was presented before each digit, but the participants were instructed to ignore it. The standard sound (S; a sine-wave tone) was used in 75% of the trials, while the novel sound (N; burst of white noise) was used in the remaining 25%. The novel trials were organized in such a way that 8 out of 9 novels would form pairs of consecutive trials among otherwise randomly dispersed standard trials. This manipulation resulted to six types of trials: S following another S; first N in a pair; second N in a pair; isolated N; S following isolated N; and, S following a pair of N.

Fourteen females and six males, with mean age of 24.2 (SD=6.4) participated in this experiment. Their hit rates and mean response times for correct responses were analyzed using one-way ANOVA for repeated measures with the sound condition as the independent factor. Overall, hit rates were high and did not vary across conditions. Their response times, however, significantly differed across conditions, where “first N in a pair,” “isolated N,” and “S following isolated N” recorded the longest response times; intermediate in “S following a pair of N”; and, shortest in the “S following another S” and “second N in a pair” conditions.

Interpreting these results, the low base-rate probability was rejected because performance following a predictable novel (second N in a pair) was comparable to that in the S condition, while the unexpected “S following isolated N” yielded as much distraction as “first N in a pair” and “isolated N.” Meanwhile, taking the “first N in a pair,” “isolated N,” and “S following isolated N” as points of comparison, the relatively shorter response times yielded in the “S following a pair of N” condition is in line with the expectation hypothesis but clashing with the perceptual change hypothesis. But if we were to take the conditions in which the sound was predictable (S, and second N in a pair), the relatively longer response time in “S following a pair of N” is in line with the perceptual change hypothesis but is incongruous with the expectation hypothesis.

Thus, the researchers have come to accept the hypotheses that, in circumstances promoting distraction, novel sounds do not capture attention just because they are rare. Rather, it is because they violate the cognitive system’s expectation and clash with the perceptual trace from the previous auditory stimulus.

This research adds to previous knowledge on behavior novelty distraction by demonstrating the ways in which a novel stimulus may affect attention. This finding has the potential for practical application, as it provides valuable insights which may be used in fostering an environment conducive for studying. More specifically, this would help both parents and teachers in designing a space where external auditory distractions may be minimized.


Bell, R., Dentale, S., Buchner, A., & Mayr, S. (2010). ERP correlates of the irrelevant sound effect. Psychophysiology, 47(6), 1182-1191. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.2010.01029.x

Jankowiak, S., & Berti, S. (2007). Behavioral and event-related potential distraction effects with regularly occurring auditory deviants. Psychophysiology, 44(1), 79-85. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.2006.00479.x

Parmentier, F. R., Elsley, J. V., Andrés, P., & Barceló, F. (2011). Why are auditory novels distracting? Contrasting the roles of novelty, violation of expectation and stimulus change. Cognition, 119(3), 374-380. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2011.02.001

Parmentier, F. R., Elsley, J. V., & Ljungberg, J. K. (2010). Behavioral distraction by auditory novelty is not only about novelty: The role of the distracter’s informational value. Cognition, 115(3), 504-511.

Oxytocin in Motion


Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” is known for its role in facilitating social interactions; it fosters mother-child bonding (West, 2007), improves social cognition (Association for Psychological Science [APS], 2010a), and stimulates trust (APS, 2010b), among others.

To further examine the function of oxytocin in human social cognitive and emotional processes, Kéri & Benedek (2009) investigated on the effect of externally administered oxytocin on the visual perception of social and nonsocial stimuli. The researchers devised a 2 x 2 x 2 within-subjects experimental design (stimulus type [biological/nonbiological] vs. difficulty [number of mask dots] vs. test condition [oxytocin/placebo]) to test the hypothesis that oxytocin improves the perception of biological motion but has no effect on the detection of structured nonbiological motion.

Kéri & Benedek (2009) adapted the stimuli used by Hiris (2007). A treadmill walking pattern was used to represent the biological motion, while a structured rotation target was used for the nonbiological motion. Each stimulus was consisted of eleven white dots on a black background. These were embedded among clouds of either 176 or 352 dynamic mask dots randomly placed on the stimulus area.

Figure 1. Illustration of the stimuli used for the assessment of biological and nonbiological motion perception. The walking character performed a treadmill-like motion, whereas the square was rotating (see also the online movies available at http://journalofvision.org/7/12/4/images/
Movie1.mov and http://journalofvision.org/7/12/4/
images/Movie3.mov [Hiris, 2007]). The signal dots are marked by arrows (Keri & Benedek, 2009).

The twenty participants had to determine whether the target stimulus was present within the mask dots or not. They had to go through 100 trials for each condition, adding up to a total of 400 trials. Forty-five minutes before the beginning of the experiment, the participants were intranasally given a single dose of 24 IU oxytocin spray or placebo. Each of them underwent the oxytocin and the placebo conditions with a one-week interval.

Figure 2. Sensitivity (d’) values for biological and nonbiological motion after intranasal administration of oxytocin and placebo. Data are means. Error bars indicate 95% confidence intervals. *p < .05, Scheffé’s tests (Keri & Benedek, 2009).

Results have shown that oxytocin enhances the perception of biological motion by increasing sensitivity for stimuli that represent living objects, but does not change the sensitivity for nonbiological stimuli. What the researchers have accomplished is to provide further support to the claim that oxytocin is, indeed, involved in the facilitation of social processes. Through their experiment, however, they have achieved to do so on a more basic level, and that is to show the involvement of oxytocin in motion perception of biologically and socially relevant actors.


Association for Psychological Science. (2010a). Hormone oxytocin improves social cognition but only in less socially proficient individuals. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/hormone-oxytocin-improves-social-cognition-but-only-in-less-socially-proficient-individuals.html

Association for Psychological Science.(2010b). Study suggests oxytocin makes people trusting, but not gullible. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/study-suggests-oxytocin-makes-people-trusting-but-not-gullible.html

Hiris, E. (2007). Detection of biological and nonbiological motion. Journal of Vision, 7(12), 1-16.

Kéri, S., & Benedek, G. (2009). Oxytocin enhances the perception of biological motion in humans. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 9(3), 237-241. doi:10.3758/CABN.9.3.237

West, C. (2007). Level of oxytocin in pregnant women predicts mother-child bond. Observer, 20(10). Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2007/november-07/level-of-oxytocin-in-pregnant-women-predicts-mother-child-bond-2.html

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