Science Says Humans Are Wired to Blame Rather Than Praise

Katie Sweeney

Do you ever find yourself judging others more harshly for their negative actions? Say, your older single sister for getting drunk at a friend’s couples-packed wedding reception? Well, it looks like there’s a scientific reason for this emotional reaction to bad behaviour. Fortune is reporting on new research that shows the human brain is wired to blame rather than praise. The study, which was printed in Scientific Reports and performed by a team from Duke University, looked at the brain activity of a group of people while reading different scenarios with positive and negative outcomes. “It turns out that the labels of blame and praise are processed in different parts of the brain, by different mechanisms,” explains Hilary Brueck. “While blame is assigned from a very emotional place, praise comes from a more logical spot. The end result? People are more likely to assume that the good acts of others are simply happenstance, but bad things are done on purpose.” The researchers believe that evolution could have trained our brains to react this way. We do not have to keep track of a person’s good actions, but noting a person’s bad actions and remembering them, possibly to protect ourselves, is important.  

To learn more about the dynamics of praise and blame in human nature, read Responsibility and Luck.

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