Summary of “Cruel to be kind: should you sometimes be bad for another’s good?”

If positive encouragement doesn’t work, you might reverse strategy, making your friend feel so bad, so worried, so scared, that the only strategy left is that he starts studying like mad. Sometimes, the only way to help someone seems to be a cruel or nasty approach – a strategy that may leave the ‘helper’ feeling guilty and wrong.
Numerous studies of interpersonal emotion regulation – how one person can change or influence the emotions of another – emphasise the value of increasing positive emotions and decreasing negative ones.
Prior to play, participants were asked to read a personal statement ostensibly written by their opponent about a painful romantic breakup.
After practising alone for five minutes, participants were asked to decide how the game should be presented to their opponents.
Our study shows that the tendency to make another feel bad to help him succeed is far more prevalent when the provocateur feels empathy.
The participants’ actions were absolutely altruistic: they chose to induce emotions that they knew would be beneficial for their opponents to perform well in the games, while reducing their own chance of a prize.
Finally, what are the limits of affect-worsening – and can even the most well-meaning, altruistic person end up doing harm? It might be that being cruel is not necessary, and that we are mistaken to think that the other person needs to feel bad in order to achieve long-term wellbeing.
Even if cruelty is effective, is it really the most effective strategy of all? In our original study, participants did not have the option to induce positive emotions in the ostensible opponent.

The orginal article.