Finnish actually has a word for this feeling - myötähäpeä (a literal translation would be something like "co-shame" or "shared shame"). Me and some people I know have occasionally wondered if Americans generally experience it less, because American TV shows seem to have a tendency to produce enough myötähäpeä to make them unwatchable more frequently than shows from other countries do.

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I have this thing, too. It would be interesting to figure out if it is overrepresented in this community, and if yes, why. I googled and found this account, which basically says that it's simply empathy:

Vicarious Embarrassment: Awkward Moments Trigger Pain Centers in the Brain

I am not sure I can believe that.

2Nornagest8yI'm American, and I feel that sense of embarrassment-by-proxy strongly enough to actively avoid a lot of the situational comedy that the US film and television industries produce. But that seems fairly unusual in this culture, if my social group and my perceptions of the American mainstream are anything to go by.
1bbleeker8yIn Dutch we call it 'plaatsvervangende schaamte' - my dictionary translates that as 'vicarious shame', so English does have an expression for it, too. I think that the Dutch expression is clearer about you experiencing shame in place of the other person, who doesn't seem to feel any...

How is your mind different from everyone else's?

by Kaj_Sotala 1 min read5th Dec 2011267 comments


Partially to help reduce the typical mind fallacy and partially because I'm curious, I'm thinking about writing either an essay or a book with plenty of examples about ways by which human minds differ. From commonly known and ordinary, like differences in sexual orientation, to the rare and seemingly impossible, like motion blindness.

To do this, I need to start collecting examples. In what ways does your mind differ from what you think is the norm for most people?

I'm particularly interested in differences - small or large - that you didn't realize for a long time, automatically assuming that everyone was like you in that regard. It can even be something as trivial as always having conceptualized the passing of years as a visual timeline, and then finding out that not everyone does so. I'm also interested in links to blog posts where people talk about their own mental peculiarities, even if you didn't write them yourself. Also books and academic articles that you might think could be relevant.

Some of the content that I'm thinking about including are cultural differences in various things as recounted in the WEIRD article, differences in sexual and romantic orientation (such as mono/poly), differences in the ability to recover from setbacks, extroversion vs. introversion in terms of gaining/losing energy from social activity, differences in visualization ability, various cognitive differences ranging from autism to synesthesia to an inability to hear music in particular, differences in moral intuitions, differences in the way people think (visual vs. verbal vs. conceptual vs. something that I'm not aware of yet), differences in thinking styles (social/rational, reflectivity vs. impulsiveness) and various odd brain damage cases.

If you find this project interesting, consider spreading the link to this post or resharing my Google Plus update about it. Also, if you don't want to reply in public, feel free to send me a private message.