Sometimes we're mean to those we love because we care, new study shows

Sometimes we're mean to those we love because we care, new study shows
Posted at 6:56 AM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 07:00:40-04

We swear that Dorothy Zbornak from the '80s sitcom The Golden Girls did not write this scientific study to legitimize picking on her dimwitted roommate Rose Nylund.

Making somebody feel bad can be a strategy for helping them, according to new research published in the journal Psychological Science.

"We have shown that people can be 'cruel to be kind' -- that is, they may decide to make someone feel worse if this emotion is beneficial for that other person, even if this does not entail any personal benefit for them," psychological scientist Belen Lopez-Perez explained to Science Daily.

Lopez-Perez gave the example of inducing fear of failure in a friend or family member who is procrastinating instead of preparing for an upcoming exam.

Researchers at England's University of Plymouth had 140 adults play a computer game in which they envisioned another person’s perspective and how they could best help a partner win the game as well as cash.

The study’s authors said “empathy led people to choose particular negative emotional experiences that they believed would ultimately help their partner be successful in the context of the game.”

"These findings shed light on social dynamics, helping us to understand, for instance, why we sometimes may try to make our loved ones feel bad if we perceive this emotion to be useful to achieve a goal," López-Pérez concludes.