Shaming others, reminding them of guilt, can cause an increase of dopamine in the brain of the person doing the shaming. However a compassionate exchange with a friend or acquaintance can also boost dopamine, and so can reading new and interesting information. Listening to music and enjoying good food can also. There are many positive ways to boost dopamine besides shaming others, such as being grateful for others' diverse skills and unique backgrounds.
Shaming others may be a natural instinct to promote one’s own morality by making it clear one is not in support of the topic or person being shamed, (9.22), or it may derive from a sense of guilt about the situation or person being shamed. (9.23)
Being fair in the first place would leave less to feel guilty about, accepting each other for our differences as well as our similarities might also.
Shaming others, purposely humiliating them, can also be a form of control or intimidation to show power over another person or group of people. Shaming one member of a group can serve to humiliate and control the group. Less equal societies, with a group of wealthy elite at the top, may be more likely to use humiliation as a control tactic. (9.24) Human sacrifice in ancient cultures was found in a recent anthropology study to be more common in societies that also had greater inequality between the rich and poor. (9.25)
However, does shaming work as a form of social control to effectively promote changed behavior in the person being shamed?
The answer is no - or at least not effectively and consistently when it comes to alcohol abuse. Research with reality shows focused on alcohol addiction and recovery have found that alcoholism or relapse were still likely to occur even after public shaming. (9.26)
- “The results add to a body of literature suggesting that widely used shaming and humiliating methods of treating alcohol and other drug problems - such as those seen on shows like Celebrity Rehab - are not only ineffective but also may be counterproductive.” (9.26)
“Guilt” is a noun referring to the feeling one feels oneself over an error or misdeed, while “shame” can be used as a noun it is more typically used as a verb, “to shame.” Others shame the one who is guilty or believed to be guilty of something the group disapproves of. Other studies with alcohol counseling individually also found that shaming tactics did not effectively help individuals stop abusing alcohol. (9.26)
Studies of serial killers and other types of violent offenders found an association with early childhood abuse. Rejection by a parent or other important person in their life was found to have occurred in the early lives of 48% of a group of 62 serial killers in the study. Other types of physical, sexual or emotional abuse such as humiliation have also been associated with violent offenders, and early adoptions, neglect, or abandonment in early childhood have been associated with violent crime. (9.27)
In a study that included over 1000 violent offenders, shame and humiliation were found to be a common factor; violence was an attempt to restore a sense of pride or self-worth: “In the work, “Shame, Guilt, and Violence,” qualitative data from over 1,000 institutionalized offenders were gathered and analyzed over the course of four decades. According to Gilligan, self-conscious feelings of shame and a deteriorated sense of self-worth are the causal factors underlying violence; humiliation, Gilligan argues, compromises one’s identity, i.e. the way one sees oneself, and leads to feelings conceptualized as a loss of cohesion of the self, or a conceptual death of the self. This leads one to become violent in order to restore pride, or a sense of self-worth (Gilligan, 2003).” Overcrowding and economic job stress, which leads to lack of parental time, are factors thought to be involved in the number of young men in gangs who may join them seeking the nurturing that was missing at an empty childhood home. (9.28)
If someone at work has a favorite stapler, maybe just let them enjoy it in peace instead of teasing them about it - and maybe get one of your own to find out what the appeal might be.