The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 109–115 | Cite as

The Relationship Between Punishment History and Skin Conductance Elicited During Swearing

  • J. J. Tomash
  • Phil Reed
Brief Report


Despite its theoretical importance, the effect of past punishment on verbal behavior is often overlooked in research due to the difficulty of measuring it. The present study explores the relationship between physiological arousal in humans and swearing; a behavior likely to have been punished in the typical conditioning history of an individual. Participants’ skin conductance was measured as they read aloud a list of words containing swear words, emotionally salient words, and neutral words. The association between SCR measurements and participants’ scores on questionnaires on previous punishment for swearing was then analyzed. Findings suggest that people have significantly higher physiological arousal when saying swear words than neutral words, and that this arousal is higher for participants who have previously received more frequent punishment for swearing, according to self-report.

Key words

swearing skin conductance physiological arousal punishment classical conditioning 


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Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySwansea UniversityUSA

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