The summarized article dwells upon the effects of obscenity on the persuasiveness of a pro-attitudinal speech. Scherer and Sagarin note that previous research suggests that swearing leads to the increased intensity and decreased credibility of the speaker (139). The researchers aim to explore the effects of using the word damn in different positions of a speech in terms of the communicator’s credibility and intensity. Scherer and Sagarin hypothesize that swearing can have a positive influence on people’s attitude towards the speaker (138). The study involved 88 students who were divided into three groups who watched three 5-minute videos (without the swear word, with the word at the beginning, and the word at the end of the speech). After watching the video on reducing tuition fees in another educational facility, the participants completed two questionnaires. The first 9-item scale addressed the participant’s attitudes towards the speaker (with the focus on credibility and knowledgeability). The second four-item scale was concerned with the students’ attitudes towards reducing tuition fees.
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The findings suggest that the use of swear words at the end and at the beginning of the speech leads to a positive attitude towards the topic. The participants had a more positive view of the communicator’s intensity. However, no impact on the participants’ attitudes towards the speaker’s credibility was observed. It is concluded that obscenity has a positive effect on the attitudes towards the speaker’s persuasiveness when it comes to attitudinal speeches but can seem inappropriate for credible speakers. The researchers note that further studies should focus on the use of other swear words or obscenity in counter-attitudinal speeches. It is also suggested to explore the impact of obscenity with stronger or weaker arguments or the effects of excessive use of swear words.
Scherer, Cory R., and Brad J. Sagarin. “Indecent Influence: The Positive Effects of Obscenity on Persuasion.” Social Influence, vol. 1, no. 2, 2006, pp. 138-146.