Profanity is Mindless

That’s right. Curse words are not processed in the same area of the brain as other language. Speaking requires language processing of units of sound, whereas curse words are stored as whole data chunks. Cussing requires less mental processing, and is primarily a function of the amygdala, a part of the brain’s limbic system which processes negative emotions.

The limbic system is in the center depths of the brain and composed of several organs responsible for memory and processing of emotions and behaviors. This area is also responsible for vocalizations in primates and animals. Yep, even animals use profanity, or at least it sounds like it!

Piecing the smallest units of sound (phonemes) together is slower and occurs in the cerebral cortex. This area of higher functioning is home to our abilities to reason and write, in addition to speaking. The formation of non-curse words seems to take longer and involves less spontaneous emotion. The formation of words is not only based on literal meanings but also feelings and emotions the words evoke. Since adult speech perception is somewhat automatic, words with strong negative connotations are easily retrieved and spoken almost spontaneously

Here are a few questions I’ve been asked recently: Why does profanity seem to slip out when our emotions are negative and spontaneous? Why is it so hard to complete a sentence when I’m angry or frustrated?

Since the amygdala is correlated with negative emotional associations; stimulating the amygdala can cause panic attacks and aggressive behaviors, while destroying the amygdala causes unusual calmness or fearlessness. Therefore, it makes sense that the amygdala would be activated in association with unpleasant words such as swear words.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies indicate verbal working memory tasks’ performances increase during positive emotional states but decrease during negative emotional states. Aha! “That’s why we can’t remember ‘sh_t’ when we are upset and frustrated.”

~ Dr. Doscher

Memories of the Future

Coined by David Ingvar, memories of the future, refers to our intentions.   As proactive beings, we make plans and follow them to guide our behavior.  While gathering snippets of our past experiences, we try to anticipate outcomes of possible future actions.  Therefore, we depend on these schemas to direct our actions, resulting in desired behavioral outcomes that do not imitate past experiences or present realities.

The general consensus has been that deceptive behavior is more cognitively demanding than truthful behavior.  However, more recent research is pointing to truthful intent as more cognitively demanding than false intent.  How so? You may ask.  Conceptualizing truthful intent requires not only planning for the future but also recalling memories of past actions and their corresponding behaviors and reactions.  Then, our proactive selves digest this information and anticipate possible future actions with desired behavioral outcomes. Whew! Talk about cognitive load!

The prefrontal cortex, which means “at the front of the cortex”, is our corporate executive of the brain.  Its tasks include, but not be limited to, executive control, conflict monitoring, emotion, and working memory.   Hmm…so, maybe the cognitive load approach to interviewing is not the golden ticket, if determining veracity of intent is the interviewer’s objective.

If the above assumptions are correct, a truthful interviewee could exhibit more deceptive behavioral cues, such as pauses or exaggerated details, than a deceptive interviewee.  This might occur as a result of the multi-layer cognitive processing when creating truthful ‘memories of the future’.  Remember, false statements, especially fabricated statements, may contain some truthful content; however, the deceptive person’s goal is not to unintentionally reference past actions, which could associate them to a particular phenomenon in question.  To prevent this from occurring, deceptive persons typically shy away from referencing memories and their associated behavioral responses,  when creating false statements of intent.

 

Impressions

First impressions are mind imprints which occur within microseconds.  Unfortunate for some, not all impressions elicit a wave of emotions.  Language content, voice speed and inflection, facial expressions, and body language may impact your career or love life, more than you know .  Is this possible when we retain approximately 10-30% of what we see and hear? Oops! Don’t forget about your other senses.

Verbal and nonverbal behaviors are communicated and received consciously and unconsciously.  Our senses never take a coffee break.  Descartes said “I think, therefore I am.”  Not to pick on the great 17th century philosopher and mathematician, but perhaps, “I sense, therefore I am” would have been more accurate.  My first reading teacher told me to use all of my senses to memorize my spelling words.  I laughed when I imagined sniffing my spelling book!  Little did I know, by using both sides of my brain to process and interpret information, I could boost my memory and recall.

Wow your receivers with facts and figures, splashed with sensual cues.  Analytical and creative minds alike depend on the right side of the brain to interpret nonverbal cues, along with feelings and visualizations.  Excite their whole brains and make a lasting impression!