Why do people feel shame? Meaning the kind of shame specifically related to exposing 'private parts'.

Where does it come from (i.e. social factors due to upbringing, inherent in our genes etc.)? What is its evolutionary purpose?

  • $\begingroup$ Is your question specific to nakedness or was that just an example? $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jun 7 '17 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ Note the field of knowledge you question fits in is called evolutionary psychology which is very theoretical and very little empirical test were actually perform. So, one can, at best formulate a hypothesis but you will hardly find any evidence for one or another hypothesis in this field. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Jun 7 '17 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ Not a native speaker. I meant the kind of shame specifically related to exposing private parts. I'll adjust the question. $\endgroup$ – mike Jun 7 '17 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Bryan Defending certain behaviours as "natural" on the basis of evolutionary psychology is not "misuse". You may not personally like the idea of promoting certain behaviours on the basis of their theoretical naturalness, I'm not entirely keen on it either, but it's just as valid a hypothesis for how to decide what behaviours to promote as any other. If we wish to oppose horrors like eugenics we do not not need to pretend their hypotheses are invalid, it's enough that we don't agree with their conclusions. Pretending they are invalid just plays into their hands. $\endgroup$ – Isaacson Jun 8 '17 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Isaacson The problem isn't the hypothesis, the problem is the use of unscientific arguments posing as scientific ones. I'm not against responsible evolutionary psychology, either, but I meant to caution the OP, who is a novice to the field, to tread lightly and to be aware there is controversy and inconsistency of quality. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jun 8 '17 at 18:18

Probably a cultural effect

In many tribes, people are naked. Also, the naturist movement is very popular in the western culture and they don't feel shame. In northern Europe, it is common to be naked in spas.

I would guess it is mainly a cultural effect and there is little heritability for this trait. I doubt you'll find a study on this particular question, so the best one can do is just to formulate a guess here.

If you don't quite understand why I talk about heritability here, then you should have a look at Why is a heritability coefficient not an index of how “genetic” something is?. In layman terms and in vague terms, I meant that there is probably little role of genes to explain why we feel naked.

Yes, but let's assume it was selected for...

If we were to assume that feeling of shameful in front of nakedness had been selected for, one may hypothesize that it could be due to sexual selection, where rich and wealthy wear clothes. It could also be due the social presssure of showing off what you are worth as sexual body parts are likely under strong sexual selection as well.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd say the ability to feel shame is physically (genetically) determined. The object/issue of shame may be culturally determined (what we learn what is to be shamed off). In that sense its likely like disgust. Specifically on nakedness I remember from lectures of "Eibl-Eibesfeld, Human Ethology" that there are almost no ethnic groups really completely naked. He mentioned one (Amazonian?) tribe who only wore a single small string around their waist, but fell terribly ashame when someone saw them without that string. So maybe the shame object nakedness itself is even genetically determined? $\endgroup$ – Rudi_Birnbaum Jun 9 '17 at 13:30

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