Why do nasty posts bother us so much? From public shaming to political echo chambers, I spoke to Terri Apter about praise, blame—and why nobody yet knows how to handle the internetby Stephanie Boland / March 14, 2018 / Leave a comment
Why do we do our taxes? On the surface, it sounds like a stupid question. We do our taxes to avoid a fine; because the hassle of not doing them outweighs the hassle of doing them; because the government tells us to. We do it because we’re law-abiding citizens, and we know funding schools and hospitals is the right thing to do.
But according to Dr Terri Apter, we do it for another reason, too: to avoid shame.
In some ways, Apter has been researching praise and blame for a long time. In the introduction to her new book, Passing Judgement, she explains how she became interested as a young research student with the way nursing mothers modulated their voices to speak to their babies. Even these infants, Apter saw, had wanted more than just to be loved: “[there] was a need for love that also conveyed, ‘You are delightful and admirable.’”
Praise and blame, she quickly realised, were a key part of our sense of self. Building on research in evolutionary psychology, Apter began to note “how carefully we monitor other people’s judgements of ourselves.”