Freakonomics Radio: Spite Happens

Broadcast Time: Wednesday, June 18 at 9pm on 93.9FM

This episode of Freakonomics Radio explores our surprising propensity for spite. We discover the gruesome etymology of the phrase “cut off your nose to spite your face” (it involves medieval nuns). Host Stephen Dubner talks to economist Benedikt Herrmann about “money-burning” lab experiments, in which people often choose to surrender some of their own cash in order to take money away from other participants. 

We hear the story of super-athlete Bo Jackson’s very costly decision to spurn one particular football team; and Freakonomics Radio producer Katherine Wells talks with biologist E. O. Wilson about whether spite exists in nature. Later in the hour, we head to Bogota, where the mayor used unorthodox methods – including traffic mimes – to restore order to the city. And Dubner talks to psychologist Robert Cialdini about how much social norms (and good old-fashioned shame) can influence our behavior.