« Freakonomics Radio

191. What Do Medieval Nuns and Bo Jackson Have in Common? (Rebroadcast)

2014-08-14 | 🔗
A look at whether spite pays -- and if it even exists.
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freak banks, everybody partners is news. This summer we are hard at work. Making new episodes for false, isn't really great episode sometime in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this encore presented of an episode called what do medieval nuns and Bow Jackson having common besides, of course, level, It probably was pretty darn p four, because you not living in a world with good razors. The chances are what they are using is kitchen cutlery. I would imagine, and that is
not necessarily all that sharpen it. I can't imagine how painful it was. That's Lisi Oliver. She studies medieval law at Louisiana State University. What do you think she's talking about that was so darn painful between them? then the twelfth century in early modern Europe barbarity swept through the car meant and also the island of England, and often the targets of these attacks were Monasteries in nurseries, but nunnery see you had the added incentive of rape to add to surf pillage and destruction for a nun. Rape was especially problematic side from the obvious reasons reap violated a nuns chastity which meant that as a bride of Christ, she might be forbidden entry into Heaven. So what do you do if you are a nun and there are barbarians at the gate in the ninth,
tree. One none, an abyss who came to be known as Saint ever came up with a plan. Here's Lisi Oliver reading from history by Roger of went over I was with an heroic spirit, took a razor and, with it cut off her nose together with her upper lip onto the teeth, presenting herself a horrible spectacle to those who stood by filled with admiration at this admiral indeed the whole assembly followed her maternal example and severally did the light to themselves when this was. On, together with the moral stone the pagan attackers came on behind the obvious and the sister so outrageously, mutilated and stained with their own blood from the soul of their foot onto their head. They retired in haste from the place there
eaters, ordered their wicked followers to set fire and burn the monastery with all its buildings and is fully inmates which being done by these workers of iniquity, the Holy apis and all the most holy versions with her attained the glory of martyrdom there's a very graphic picture offs, you have a cutting her nose and lip off and all of the women around her looking thrilled at the concept in terms of pain. It must spin dreadful to cut your nose off at night and then wait until the morning. Is that pain racking your body? But that is the pain of martyrdom it's the crown of thorns. I know it's hard to transpose oneself to a different timing
place. But if you could put yourself back in a nunnery, do you think you would have followed suit and Ghana hidden cut off your own nose to spite your face? Probably why? I think that there is a wave of hysteria that follows that kind of action where I dont think I would have been number do, but I probably would have been number twenty here. I mean it's the happen in thing. Man we're all got no noses all right now. Why are we telling you this grisly tail, because the theme of today's show is spite as in cutting off your nose to spite your face, so where's aren't certain, but this phrase quite likely originates with the practice of medieval nuns. Lake Saint, ever women who-
mutilated themselves in an attempt to preserve their chastity. Now economics is all about tradeoffs everything as a cost and benefit. What do you make of the nuns tradeoff? Was it worth it. I'm pregnant from w and my see this is free economics, radio, the package that explores the hidden side of everything: here's your host, Stephen Governor oh
today shows about spite we're going to look at why people sometimes try to hurt others even when it's very closely to themselves. It struck me that Spain is in some ways and economic concept so called up an economist. I know Steve Lever is my free economics friend and CO author teaches at university when I think about spite as an economist. The way I would think of spite is that it is the response of an individual who has been wronged in some way by another who then is willing, in the future, to pay a large costs in order to punish the person who wronged him in the first place. So and a strange said is not a very economic concept because in general we don't think that people are going To be overly willing to pay a lot of costs themselves to punish other people, I think
he described is more revenge than spite, though I too Maybe I don't you know its bite is what is fight its inclusion. Well, it's not so easy to define spied. That's Benedict Herman he's also an economist originally from Germany. Now he works as a policy officer for the European Commission has done a lot of research on anti social behaviour. You might fact call him a scholar. Spite lives. Have uneasy start here and define spied is behavior or an individual is ready to harm him or herself at any cost. Tom somebody else, without creating anything good for a third party for send anyone outside, because you can sometimes be nasty to somebody just because he or she has missed behaved and he would like to do it in a kind of educational way which then I would not calls by
because it's not costing you anything. No. If I'm punishing somebody who has misbehave door community to our group, if I punish him or her it own cost, it could look like spine. It's not spied because it's an educational momentum. You try to get somebody who has done something bad to behave better in the future. So it's a kind of more realistic way of punishing a more realistic way of being aggressive in. So it's not the kind of spite I'm after I'm asking Behavior were somebody would harm others with for Norway, for no more reason, apart from something that might satisfy him or herself only traditional economics argues that most people try to satisfy their self interest to maximize their profits and opportunities a common.
Have a name for this model of self interest Homo economics. But within that framework, spite is a bit puzzling. Why would someone pay out sized costs for no benefit other than to hurt? Someone else well, Benedict Herman thinks that the idea of homo economics is bit archaic. He prefers a different term homo Novalis, yes, indeed, homo revolvers, meaning that humans are driven at our core by competition rather than simple self interest. Homo economic us once again as much as possible for himself homo revolvers just once make sure he gets more than the other guy, in other words as much as we like to think that we are absolute animals, we are in fact relative,
now. We know this in part through the experimental games that economists like to play. One of the classics is called the ultimatum game. You're Steve Levin again for the ultimatum game, with a low experimental game that the behavioral economists have developed, in which players come at the lab in their completely anonymous I'll, never meet each other to one shot game and one player is given say ten dollars, and they are allowed to divide that ten dollars. However, they like between themselves and the other player that other players and informed about the way in which the division has occurred and is given a choice, they can either accept the division, say seven dollars for the splitting the pot and three dollars for me, or I have another option for say no. I prefer both of us to give zero
case away. You always face a choice between as the recipient of the ultimatum is. I can accept what the other person offered me, or I can have as both kids, zero and empirically. What we see is that rarely will anyone, except in offer that less than twenty percent. So if the person, whose puts a pot divided more unevenly than seventy five twenty five year, almost guaranteed to have it rejects it even though the reject her is giving up to twenty five or the twin, percent of their own money in order to take the seventy five or the eighty percent away from you now to an economist. This might seem perplexing why
I willing to throw away two or three of my dollars just to make sure that you don't get seven or eight well, maybe it's because I feel you ve wronged me by splitting the pot so unevenly, but remember what been determined said earlier about spite true spite as he sees it is not motivated by a desire to punish someone's bad behavior. So he wanted to see how people behave absent. Such a moral sensitive. He and a colleague came up with an experiment. So let me quickly trying to explain here on the radio how this experiment work, so we would be invited to experiment Like many other students, you dont know each other you'll come to our lab inside you have to sit behind computers. You requested
to talk with anyone doing whole experiment, so your paired with another player, but you don't see that person you each get ten dollars and then you're given an option. You surrender one dollar of your money. You can destroy five dollars of the other person's wealth. Now, there's no revenge going on here. There would seem to be anything for you to gain by destroying the other person's money, but, as Bennet determine found about, ten percent of the players did take that option. Herman call such a player, a difference, maximizing the means that we want to maximize the pay of differential between the opponent and us so maybe anymore,
Peter S way being aware that we are losing our trousers and for the sake and for the hope that the opponents of a loose boast assure food products? In other words, some people were always willing to cut off their noses. Despite the other player Herman was perplexed by this finding and he tried the experiment in a variety of versions, Friday of settings, different parts of the world different kinds of societies, but in each case he found that a surprising number of people would give up some of what was theirs for the sole purpose of taking something away from someone else. And what are you as the researcher thinking Are you thinking? This is remarkably surprising, sad, strange irrational? What is your I mean? On the one hand, you must be excited because, for the sake of a paper, it's it's a fascinating. Finding does exactly disappointed to see
also for research. Of course anyone say exactly, as you decided very nicely, you're very excited, but on the other side, of course, starting or my good who the hell are we meet humans. For me, the outcome of this research is definitely a kind of sadness and also worried it. We can be too fast. We humans, we can get to fast into intergroup conflict, which don't make any sense to anyone that he starts to harm each other dead. We start innocent people to kill each other for something that of the end of the day, could have been decided in a much more reasonable way.
Now as interesting as this may be, as believable as it may be, Steve Levitt warns us not to make too much of lab experiments. Likeness it's hard to extrapolate from a lab setting too hurly burly of the real world, when people in the lab there completely anonymous is you only time will ever play, but Real world is usually like that. Indeed, so, after the break we'll get back to the real see if we can find a story where someone willingly gives up money and not just a few bucks. Second, these lab games, but lots and lots of bucks in order to prove a point where the contract he was offered was five years. Seven point: six: six million! Now it's coming up on frequent
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from W and Y see. This is for economics, radio, here's, your host, Stephen governor. We are talking today about spite about actions that hurt someone else but are especially closely torso Dave Oconnor is a filmmaker with radical media in New York. He was the executive producer of a documentary film made for ESPN called you. Dont know bow the bow in question projects
Nobody can charge knows exactly. What do you do? Spider man was robbed in the single greatest athlete of his generation to sport, star football in baseball and was just at transformative athlete you just physically there's something about his presence that, for different than normal human beings. So in the spring of nineteen. Eighty six Bo Jackson was,
senior year of college baseball at Auburn he showed signs of being a very highly valued major league baseball player. I'm Tirana cover off the ball back over four hundred. Oh, I don't know. Mainly home runs. I was sitting on then that's Jackson himself from the film now he had just pleaded his senior season of college football, which had gone even better Dave, Oconnor again football his senior year is one of the all time great seasons, of a running back in college football. He Russia's for nearly eighteen hundred yards. He wins the Heisman trophy and basically in shrines himself as a legend of college football sort of common wisdom. Was that, but will be the number one traffic and football he will probably not play baseball at all, and if he does, somebody should pickin in it
when he gets round or thirtieth round on a flyer, just in case you dont want to waste a pit A guy who's gonna be plain for all right. So, while finishing up his college baseball career Jackson starts getting courted by NFL teams, the football draft happens for the baseball draft. The number one overall NFL Pic is held by the Tenth Bay buccaneers. Are owned by a man named Hugh Culver House. The bucks have made it clear that they want bow Jackson I was all gone home and I had taken a few trips to visit. Sometimes my senior, I got the ok to obey the temper by Hugh cover how sent his jet to Columbus Airport drove over can on the jet went to temper for my visit it was almost like a college visit when your high school senior and you're going to visit colleagues may get some of the players
show you around town to show you the night spots. Take it to a nice restaurant and entertain you about for five days later, I'm back at all born, get ready, form a baseball bat and walked out on the feel I have to walk from at Leg Department cross a parking lot cross the street to the baseball feel then, as I get to the gate, to come around the dugout coach bear approaches me he's above. Can I talk to you for a second?
ass, a shook off his unless cover behind a debt at Ashcombe Centre at so with abundant, and I'm thinking that he's gonna tell me hey. Some big league team was the Sami, and now he said, did you take a trip last week old, Hugh Clover houses, yet to go down a bit a terrible as it yes in both check and said that it was ok, they checked with the anti answer that it was ok, do that he said Babo somebody didn't check in the anti a has declared you ineligible for any more college sports. So you can't play baseball anymore and I sat there on the ground and I cried like a baby. I cry like a baby,
oh Jackson, immediately felt that he'd been wronged. He loved baseball. And even though it looked like he was going to play football professionally. He was distraught about being barred from finishing out of college baseball career and, what's more, he became convinced that Hugh Culver House, the Tampa Bay owner, had done this to bow on purpose because crucial that Tamper Bay told me. Personally. Yes, we checked, and they said that it was ok. I think it was all applied now just to get ineligible from baseball Jose, saw the seas, and then I was happy and they thought that they're gonna lose meta baseball, and if we declare an inevitable, then we got it now. We don't know whether the bucks actually meant this to happen, but it certainly did seem to work out well for them. They were in line to pick Jackson number one in the NFL draft and pay him so
money that he'd forget about baseball in a heartbeat was just one problem, isn't the forgetting type, and I said there is no way I'm signing with Tampa Bay, and I told you after I take you draft me. If you want you going to waste a draft pick. I said I promise you and you cover us well. This is what I'm all for you as a signing, bonus and you're going to take it and it whether you want it or not. I said all right: they got serious and I sat down after baseball season was over. I talked to my baseball coach. I could coach a lot of people, don't think I'm serious about playing baseball, I said, but
camp. Obey dress me, I said all my honour and I'm looking you in your eye, man, a man, I'm plan baseball, so if you know any teams out there that interested in and outfielder you let him know in the NFL draft that April Tampa Bay did select, Jackson, with the number one which was attached to a seven point: six, six million dollar five year contract and then a couple of months later Bo Jackson was selected in the baseball trapped in the four
round by the Kansas City Royals, they offered him three years it just one million dollars. The choice would seem obvious, but bow doesn't know obvious. He rejects a football offer. Can he takes? The baseball offer have surprising, as this year's day volcanic unprecedented. It just doesn't happen you you can't. I mean money talks to me. You have seven point. Six million dollar sitting there
and you signed a contract for one. That's that's a rare occurrence. It sounds like a decision that very few people that I know at least would have made. Do you think that was an active spite unbowed Jackson's park? It's interesting because I think bow and say that he did the honourable thing and that he has a code, but when you look at it on its surface is spite, there is no rational explanation for walking away from that kind of money. He's not just hurting himself. Here he's also doing this to hurt Tampa Bay, the opportunity cost of losing a first round drastic, isn't just that both Jackson isn't playing on my team. It's that every other player I could have selected with that pic is not playing on my team either. So it's a huge impact to tap at bay, not to mention the public relations
It made her of of going out on a limb and selecting somebody and not getting him. So Jackson does sign with the royals he's it's the year in the minor league, but by the end of the season it makes a major leaking he's on track for a nice baseball career and then the next year he becomes eligible to re, enter football now really play. Nobody knows, but the LOS Angeles raiders drafted in the seventh round. He signs and suddenly he's playing to professional sports at the end of the baseball season. He jumped straight into football and he became a star in both. He also becomes a household name in part because of his athletic feats and in part, because he was a star of one of the most
beguiling, add campaigns in history, Bo Nos four Nike allows based basketball, o could serve bow. Could rollerblade bow? Could not play ice hockey. That was the one thing that they didn't. They couldn't agree to. Let him actually be able to do. Gretzky shakes his head and says but pretty much everything else: volleyball, tennis running lifting waits, aerobics, all kinds of stuff so we agree that both Jackson's athletic career turned out pretty well remarkable on some dimensions, but overall, not one of the greatest ever because it wasn't long enough. Perhaps we agree that
because he was such an unusual athlete into sports, he became this icon and the focus of a remarkable and probably quite remunerative, add campaign right wing beyond How far do we therefore agree that had this catastrophe not happened with him with getting drafted for the NFL by tee that out of space or something lake spite he turned down that if that had not happened the arrests may not have happened. Yeah. I think that's a plausible argument to make because he probably had he signed that deal with Tampa Bay if he doesn't get injured, probably becomes one of the best running backs and nfl history, but that's probably it I'm honestly might take
lesson here spite pays yeah, you would say I mean if you take a look at where he ends up spite, certainly paid in his case. So here is the question we are thinking about. If spite indeed exists, is it something that we humans have always carried around in our genetic code? Poor Do we pick it up along the way, were very biological organism and with inherited an awful lot. In fact, most of the basic emotions. The guidance from our animal Paleo, listen early human path, that is e, o wealth,
he's, a renowned biologist and author- and this is Catherine Wells he's a producer on our show. Catherine, you had a chat. Professor Wilson? Yes, I did, it was cool, so I call them because wanted to know where all of this self destructive spite comes from. You know it's a common behaviour through, nature, or are we unusual in it, and I have to say that I just assumed that we would be the meanest creatures and existence given everything we ve heard today, but Wilson, That wasn't true. Oh no, we breathe only moderately mean ah now feel Wilson has done a lot of thinking about the origins of human behaviour and he thinks the nastiness that we see an animal's might give us a clue to why we act the way we do the case comes quickly to mine, for example, of the kind of wider that in which really are mother has a brood of fire. Things and when they are born
ah shutdown and let's little spot following these her and a couple of cases the age for the workers have the huge clan of poisonous material containing it and when they get into a tough fight. They are able to contractor avenue engine explode. Other abdomen, shoulder sticky poison covers the enemy. It can just able Chevalier means doing that by giving its life. The list of this kind of behaviour goes on and on things, are you really don't want to think about too much before you go to sleep, you might have nightmares, but here's the story about bite if we define spite as doing harm to some one else at the cost of harm.
Do yourself, and that involves a surrender of some advantage. Or emotional reward on your part. You ve, given up. In order to hurt. Somebody else. Am I not exist in nature, ah, in its very difficult to find any case in the great encyclopedia of animal aggression were, doesn't go from advantage to the individual doing the aggression, but its very that an animal would deliberately injury shelf just in order to create Hungary and another individual without any further gain to itself. To deliberately do that, I think spite does not exist.
Animal kingdom now in the way that it does in humans. Well, Schumann's, when a person injures himself or herself, she and reputation in diminishing wealth causing their own early death, whatever it is in order to harm another person, he would say all that much light could be spite. But It really would be true spite and my mind as opposed to mirror risk taking or trade off. Ah, for for one kind of gain in exchange for one kind of lost taken. Ah, if you can't she again and that that's hard to imagine even vengeance has its greatest has emotional award, for example, if you harm yourself in your reputation by vicious gosh, but by monopoly
ocean by treating whatever you accept. That is the damage you can do benefit true in some other way or better. Say particularly your own offspring, in a particular way like unscrupulous stage ah murder, issues of low cheerleading champion competitors. I think you're gets adrift, even a mass murderer around harms. Alot of people is taking some benefit emotional benefit from that win, suicide is intended alot of mass murders. Terrible form of suicide in which a person decides to get the satisfaction advance of committing it, and maybe the satisfaction person will get and strike
out again something they imagine to Ben therein. Man diminish them before show when you other factor, maybe shrill spite does not exist so I don't know whether this is a relief or not. I mean the idea that spite might not even exist seems good, but the fact that we get personal satisfaction out of hurting other people I told Wilson that was kind of a bummer, that your shows you're, not a psychopath my my total worth but here's the upside spite is not the they motivation, we have for being self destructive, there's actually another altruism.
When we heard ourselves, we are and always doing it just to hurt someone else. Sometimes we're doing it to help women version Boutros Human. If are internally conflicted, nature conviction are ambivalence to our own shells. We are consciously rustling with our conscience with a tendency to deviate from social norms and risky way and to do wrong heavy shellfish, the contest within us between doing the moral thing. Even the heroic thing on one side. And doing the shellfish, perhaps even criminal thing. On the other side, a contest is what gives us continuously conflicted nature if we wouldn't became
completely altruistic, then we would be like edge if we went to the opposite extreme and had complete lack of constraint, and it was completed Dualism then we would have chaos. We would not have orderly all the group would dissolve. So we have to peace in the middle. There appears to be the human condition It's funny! Listen to him, talk about that! That's Steve Levitt! Again! He took a class with Wilson when Eleven was an undergrad at Harvard he's very fond of the way Wilson thinks there could be no to disciplines closer. Then evolutionary biology and economics and they studied different questions and they use different methods.
But the way that evolutionary biologists think is exactly like the way their economies think both are very much. A model of behaviour of individual behaviour an individual behaviour that motivated by costs and benefits. The other thing is that at its heart, both economics, and evolution body strive for simplicity, that the simplest story, which can explain a set of facts, is the one that would gravity to as opposed to other disciplines. History histories, all about complexity and literature, it's all about complexity, even sociology. I think hard about complexity, but but economics he's about simplicity, lake e, o, Wilson live. It thinks that spite true Speight may not really exist, because that would mean that I
you, even though I get nothing for nothing and while it may seem that I get nothing, I probably get something. What I would say about spite. I would say this to to know that an actress by you have to be inside the head of the perpetrator, because the ideas it is that is being done without benefit. But it's interesting because one of the first premises, if you can amongst these, you can never really know what other, but I'm thinking, and why they're doing with the doing? Instead, we focus on what they do and are consequently my view is forgetting: what's going on inside of other people's heads You're probably never know what it is and focus on what we are actually doing, Do you see
altruism as sort of the flip side of the coin. To spite, and therefore not quite real, altruism is exactly the flip side of spite in the sense that their acts, which very well could be altruistic, but equally, could be done in a perfectly self interested way both make you feel really good and if your good to help other people sometimes and if you're so good, to punish other people who run you. So I they're both She completely consistent with the day of of people doing the best they can. And what about you personally lever? Do you get more satisfaction generally from helping people or punishing people? my love or not a fire? You know that I too have faith.
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-12.