Tuesday Jul 19, 2022
Researchers have revealed that verbal insults can trigger a feeling of a “mini slap to the face” — even in unnatural conditions like isolation or a neutral environment with no context.
The researchers analysed 79 female participants by using electroencephalography (EEG) and skin conductance recordings to compare the short-term impact of repeated verbal insults.
“The exact way in which words can deliver their offensive, emotionally negative payload at the moment these words are being read or heard is not yet well-understood,” said corresponding author Dr Marijn Struiksma, of Utrecht University in a university release.
“Understanding what an insulting expression does to people as it unfolds, and why, is of considerable importance to psycholinguists interested in how language moves people, but also to others who wish to understand the details of social behaviour.”
Throughout the study, three different types of speech were repeated to the participants, such as insults, compliments and neutral statements.
Surprisingly, the researchers found that the negative statements triggered a slap-like impact on the participants, even in “unnatural conditions” such as statements coming from “fictitious” people.
“Our study shows that in a psycholinguistic laboratory experiment without real interaction between speakers, insults deliver lexical ‘mini slaps in the face’, such that the strongly negative evaluative words involved that a participant reads, automatically grab attention during lexical retrieval, regardless of how often that retrieval occurs,” said Struiksma.