Science & Technology

The feeling of shame deters people from making harmful choices in life

How dare you? This question is asked on a near daily basis, whether it is provoked through body language, conversation or  our conscience, making us often feel disgusted in ourselves. People do not enjoy being looked down on no matter what the circumstance. The dangerously contagious feeling of shame, as bad as it can seem, however, is more fascinating than  people would assume.

Researchers at the University of Montreal and the University of California, Santa Barbara, Center for Evolutionary Psychology claimed that the feeling “was built into human nature by evolution because it served an important function for our foraging ancestors.”

Living in an underdeveloped environment, our ancestors needed to think ahead and weigh out the pros and cons of particular situations in order to survive.

They faced many ominous impediments that made them rely and think about others to get through times of hardship. As generations advance, more expectations are imposed on individuals so they can survive within distinct settings.

This constant advancing of emotions necessary for survival is what perpetuates the feeling of discomfort and embarrassment that comes with shame.

So why do we avoid shame? Though shame is a universal emotion, it is projected through various situations, regardless of whether the emotion is corrupt or virtuous. For instance, according to postdoctoral psychology researcher Daniel Sznycer, “In other research, we showed that individuals feel shame when others view their actions negatively, even when they know they did nothing wrong.” Shame is like a sixth sense; we were never born with it, but we tend to feel it.

“Shame’s reputation is not pretty,” Sznycer concluded, “but a closer look indicates that this emotion is elegantly engineered to deter harmful choices and make the best of a bad situation.” This provides us with a chance to analyze and prognosticate how humans devalue one another.

So why do we make bad choices?

Although this elegantly engineered sensation — shame — can estimate how severe the culmination of a situation can be, other emotions can still steer us into making bad or inadequate decision.

Based on the research study, “a person who did only what others wanted would be selected against [sic], the authors point out, because they would be completely open to exploitation. On the other hand, a purely selfish individual would be shunned rapidly as unfit to live with in this highly interdependent world — another dead end.”

Unfortunately, there is no in-between.

We should not bring ourselves down as long as we have made a moral decision or at least a conscious effort to better our lives, whether this be by listening or ignoring our feelings of shame. “When considering how to act, it [is] critical to weigh the direct payoff of potential action.”

If one were to cause trouble and not feel shame, it would bring them back to the intensely aggravating question: How dare you?

September 20, 2018

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Nayerra Zahran


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