Bad grammar activates the body's 'fight or flight' response, study finds

27 October 2023, 11:27 | Updated: 27 October 2023, 11:31

Bad grammar can provoke the body's 'fight or flight' response, a study found
Bad grammar can provoke the body's 'fight or flight' response, a study found. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Bad grammar is so irksome that it can provoke the body’s stress responses, a study has found.

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Experts have found that bad grammar can cause a physical reaction - even increasing the heart rate.

Some of the worst offending examples are mixing up tenses within a sentence, confusing singular and plural, double negatives and misusing commas.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham recruited 41 British English speaking adults for a study where they were given speech samples to listen to, half of which contained grammatical errors.

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Participants’ heart rates were recorded while they listened to the samples.

The study found that the more errors a person heard, the more regular their heartbeat became, indicating elevated stress levels.

Researchers said the grammatical errors appeared to activate the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.

Professor Dagmar Divjak, principal investigator of the study, said: “Your knowledge about your first language is largely implicit, i.e., learning your mother tongue did not require you to sit and study, and using it does not require much, if any, thought.

“This also means that you will find it hard to pin down what exactly is right or wrong about a sentence and, even worse, explain why that is so, especially if you've not had formal language training.”