David Shoemaker, Professor at Tulane University, will be giving a talk titled: "The Trials and Tribulations of Tom Brady: Self-Blame, Self-Talk, Self-Flagellation". For more information on David, please visit his website.
When Tom Brady throws an interception, he yells at himself and pounds his fists on his helmet. When Serena Williams misses a shot, she breaks her racket. When Tiger Woods misses a long putt, he falls to his knees and shakes his head. These athletes are clearly blaming themselves. Surprisingly, though, current theories of blame have a very hard time accounting for such cases. Most theories of blame take other-blame — directly expressed dyadic blame— as their paradigm, typically thought to be a response to poor quality of will or moral wrongdoing and consisting in some kind of relationship-modification, communication, or protest. None of these features seem to apply in the cases of athletic self-blame. Recently, some theorists have taken self-blame to be a more fundamental paradigm than other-blame, but they are focused on self-blame as guilt, which again can’t capture the athletic cases, because Tom, Serena, and Tiger aren’t feeling anything like guilt when they blame themselves. As a result of these problems, I offer a new theory of self-blame, one that starts by theorizing directly about the athletic cases. I draw from some fascinating recent psychological work on the phenomenon of self-talk to make the case that, while emotional paradigms of both self-blame and other blame have anger in common, their anger is of a very different type, and they have very different associations with responsibility. All of this is motivated by a new puzzle I introduce about hypocrisy and its limits.