Jennifer Jacquet on public shaming

The author of Is Shame Necessary? talks about why public shaming can be a force for good. Listen to the full podcast below.

The World Today Updated 4 January 2021 Published 26 March 2015 2 minute READ

You advocate putting shame to work for a good cause. What is the difference between shame and guilt?

Shame is thinking about what others think of us, whereas guilt is an internal conversation with your own conscience. There are ways that both can be used as a tool: you can utilize shame by exposing a few offenders to public opprobrium. Guilt is obviously the more ideal regulator because individuals self-regulate. But it is probably the least adequate of all our forms of punishment. Some cultures don’t even have a word for guilt and there are arguments that not only is it a more western phenomenon, but that it is also a more modern phenomenon. Shakespeare used the word ‘guilt’ only 33 times, and used the word ‘shame’ 344 times. Guilt is ideal but often it’s not enough to get people to behave.

Where has shaming worked?

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