Online e in presenza

Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Polo delle Scienze Umane e sociali
Aula piccola

Online e in presenza

Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Polo delle Scienze Umane e sociali
Aula piccola

Swear words have a unique linguistic power. Swearing in public is illegal in many countries and profanity is a major target for censorship in the arts and entertainment industries. What gives swear words their potency?

In the first part of his talk, R. McKay will describe a systematic cross-linguistic investigation of phonetic patterns in profanity and show how the non-arbitrary form of swear words is important for understanding how swear words fulfil their psychological and social functions.

In the second part of the talk, McKay will discuss swearing in a different context – the courtroom. In countries such as Britain and the United States, court witnesses must publicly declare that they will provide truthful evidence, either by swearing an oath or by making an affirmation. McKay will present evidence that people associate choice of the oath with credible testimony.

The real-world implications of these findings will be discussed and will be suggested that the religious oath is an antiquated legal ritual that needs reform.



RYAN MCKAY | Royal Holloway, University of London



The event, organized by FBK’s Center for Religious Studies, will be held in English and is part of the activities of the research project IPN 175: “Resilient Beliefs: Religion and Beyond,” funded by the Euregio Science Fund.

The event will be in-person in the FBK Aula Piccola while seats last and online.

Registration by June 5, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. is required in order to arrange the connection.



Ryan McKay is Professor of Psychology at the Department of Psychology of Royal Holloway, University of London. He studied undergraduate psychology at UWA in Perth and completed his PhD at Macquarie University in Sydney. He did postdoctoral work in Boston (Tufts University), Belfast (Queen’s University), Zürich (University of Zürich) and Oxford (University of Oxford). He has been at Royal Holloway since 2010, where he heads up the Morality and Beliefs Lab (MaB-Lab). His main area of research is how people form and revise their beliefs about themselves and the world, and how this process can derail to produce “pathologies of belief”.



Registration to this event is mandatory.

Registration closed on 01/06/2023.




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