My HeyDay

Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful


Shame: The Social Emotion

An interesting excerpt:
"Shame is the social emotion because it is the psychological force underpinning both conformity and obedience to authority. On the pressure to conform, we can look to Asch's (1952) experiments, in which each person around the table was asked to say which of two lines projected on a screen was the same lenght as a third. All except one of the people were stooges in cahoots with the expermienter and had agreed to give the wrong answer. The point of the experiment was to see what the one naive experimental subject would say when it came to his or her turn to say which of the two lines was equal to the third --after everyone else had expressed the same (false) opinion. After these experiments had been repeated a number of times with a succession of subjects, it was found that a large proportion of people tended to conform to the group opinion rather than give an answer which set them apart from others. When asked afterward to explain the answers they had given, people said they feared looking stupid, or thought others would think they "couldn't see straight." But interestingly, some of the people who conformed most appeared to be quite unaware that they had responded to any kind of group pressure" [1]
It is not surprising that many people frequently --and undoubtlessly, eventually all of us-- give up our intelligence to feel that group comfort. And to accept obvious lies. Shame takes many forms: feeling foolish, stupid, ridiculous, inadequate, defective, incompetent, awkward, exposed, vulnerable, insecure, helpless... but it invariably produces a society of weak citizens, of quasi-human beings, who give up their precious singularity and their ability to bright. I don't understand why combating the feeling of social shame is not a crucial theme in every school.


[1] Wilkinson, R.
(2005) 'The impact of inequality: how to make sick societies healthier'

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