A recent study seems to have proven wrong the age-old adage, “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you”.
The study, which was published in Pain, focused on people’s responses to words associated with pain such as “paralyzing” and “excruciating”. Researchers used fMRI technology to scan participants’ brains while they read pain related words, positive words, and negative words not associated with pain. They found that the parts of the brain that become active when real pain is experienced also become active when “painful” words are read.
The results were surprising – researchers did not expect to see such a large effect on the brain from merely reading words. However, only 16 participants were used, so further research is needed to strengthen the conclusions.
Words Really Do Hurt. (2010). Retrieved May 12, 2010 from WebMD.