Andrew Gelman Asks a Good Question

Contains adult language

Here it is:

[W]hy does this sort of rudeness [on listserv, an Internet discussion group] hurt so much? Even though, as a logical matter, we should be able to ignore this rudeness, it actually hurts enough to dissuade people from posting.
I don't mean why rudeness on the Internet hurts so much, I mean why rudeness per se hurts so much. This is one of those questions that one never asks because it seems to go without saying. But, of course, "It goes without saying" is not a proper answer, as many parents have had to learn.

Cue some evopsych armchair theorizing from me. The standard story on why there is physical pain is that it is a signal that there is something to attend to. For example, by hurting your arm "tells" you that it's losing blood, which you had better stop. I submit that psychological pain in response to rudeness is similar. If a person disrespects the norms of the group by being what's considered rude, this may mean he's likely to disrupt the group, which could mean trouble for you. If he insults you personally, it may mean that the next time, he's going to hit you with an axe. It may also be a signal that he's fucking your wife. In other words, there's something to attend to.

An alternative hypothesis is that one dislikes rudeness towards oneself because it is likely to reduce one's status - at least if one doesn't have a good comeback. But that raises the question why rudeness towards oneself reduces one's status. I think the answer is in the paragraph above.

No, I don't think there are any testable implications either.

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