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Record number 486507
Title Taking steps towards a new view of shame and guilt: Shame motivates approach and guilt motivates avoidance behaviors
Author(s) Hooge, I.E. de
Source In: Proceedings of the Winter Conference of the Society for Consumer Psychology. - - p. 125 - 126.
Event Society for Consumer Psychology, Winter Conference, San Antonio Texas, USA, 2013-02-28/2013-03-02
Department(s) Marketing and Consumer Behaviour
WASS
Publication type Abstract in scientific journal or proceedings
Publication year 2013
Abstract Shame and guilt play a pivotal role in consumer behavior. Until now, consumer and emotion research suggests that shame has negative and guilt has positive consequences. Instead, I suggest that shame motivates a need to belong and approach behavior, whereas guilt motivates a need to repair a damaged relationship and avoidance behavior. Six experiments with different emotion inductions demonstrate that shame motivates a choice for being together with other people, and that guilt motivates a choice to be together only with one’s victim. In sum, shame is not that ugly and guilt is not that good as currently thought. Introduction More often than not consumers experience emotions. These emotions can have pivotal influences on consumer behaviors such as approaching sales people, gift giving, or buying products in crowded malls. As two often-occurring emotions, shame and guilt have often been thought to play a central role in interpersonal settings. More specifically, existing consumer and emotion theories suggest that shame has negative interpersonal consequences such as withdrawal and avoidance behaviors, whereas guilt has positive interpersonal consequences such as approach and interaction behavior (see e.g. Baumeister et al., 1994; Lewis, 1971; Tangney & Dearing, 2002). However, this image of shame and guilt might be too simplistic. The present research presents a new view of shame and guilt and demonstrates with six experiments how shame motivates a willingness to interact with other people and guilt a willingness to avoid other people. Shame is a very negative feeling that arises after moral or incompetent actions (Barrett, 1995). The person has done something that damages the view of the self and subsequently feels inferior and incompetent (Ausubel, 1955; Izard, 1991). The central concern of shame is a threatened self: the whole self is negatively evaluated (Lewis 1971). Existing theories suggest that this would motivate negative interpersonal consequences such as withdrawal, avoidance, and social isolation to deal with the threatened self (e.g. Haidt, 2003; Keltner & Harker, 1998, Tangney et al., 2007). In contrast, I suggest that shame motivates interactions with others to repair the threatened self. Having a positive self-image is a fundamental human need (Gibbons, 1990), and recent research demonstrates that shame activates a motive that addresses this need and restores the threatened self (De Hooge et al., 2010). Sociometer theory (Leary et al., 1995) suggests that self-esteem is a reflection of current social relationships. This suggests that the best way to restore a threatened self is to affiliate with people. In other words, shame would motivate approach behavior. Guilt arises after a moral transgression in which the actor has hurt another person and perceives himself as a bad person (Baumeister et al., 1994; Lewis, 1971). The person experiences stress and regret and is preoccupied with the damaged relationship and the bad thing done (Lewis, 1987). The central concern of guilt is the damaged relationship and the tendency to make amends (Izard, 1991). Consequently, existing theories suggest that guilt motivates positive interpersonal consequences such as repair behavior, apologizing, and approach behavior (Barrett, 1995; Haidt, 2003; Tangney et al., 2007). In contrast, I suggest that guilt only motivates interactions with the victim and not approach behavior towards others in general. Guilt concerns the damaged relationship with one’s victim, and the actor is preoccupied with repairing the damaged relationship (De Hooge, in press; De Hooge et al., 2011). This preoccupation motivates people to interaction with the victim and to avoid other people in order to deal with the damaged relationship. Experiments Six experiments tested these ideas. The first two experiments correlated the shame-proneness and guilt-proneness scales TOSCA (Tangney, 1991) and GASP (Cohen et al., 2011) with scales such as the Need to Belong, State Self-esteem, Social Comparison, Empathy, and Perspective Taking. The findings revealed that shame-proneness correlated positively with Need to Belong and Social Comparison, and negatively with State Self-esteem. Guilt only correlated positively with Empathy and Perspective taking. In Experiment 3 shame and guilt (or no emotion in the control condition) were induced with a autobiographical recall procedure, and in Experiment 4 the emotions were induced with a scenario (De Hooge et al., 2008, 2011). In both experiments participants could subsequently choose whether they wanted to do a lab task alone or together with another participant. Both experiments found that shame motivated a preference for the together-task, and guilt motivated a preference for the alone-task. Experiments 5 and 6 tested the prediction that shame would motivate approach behavior in every situation, whereas guilt would only motivate approach behavior towards the victim. In Experiment 5 shame (or no emotion in the control condition) was induced in the lab (De Hooge et al., 2008). Participants in the endogenous condition then chose between doing a lab task alone or together with somebody who knew about the shame condition, and in the exogenous condition participants chose between doing a task alone or together with somebody who knew nothing about the shame event. In both cases shame motivated a preference for the together task (compared to the control condition). Finally, in Experiment 6 guilt (or no emotion) was induced in the lab (De Hooge et al., 2011). In the endogenous condition participants then chose between doing a task alone or together with their victim, and in the exogenous condition between doing a task alone or together with somebody who knew nothing about the guilt event. Similarly to Experiments 3 and 4, participants in the exogenous condition chose the alone task. In the endogenous task, however, participants preferred the together task. In sum, multiple experiments reveal that existing consumer and emotion theories on shame and guilt might need a change. Shame can motivate approach behaviors and guilt can motivate withdrawal behavior. These findings can have important consequences for emotion influences on consumer behaviors such as approaching a sales person, shopping in a crowd of people, or internet shopping. Thus, shame is not so ugly and guilt is not so good as currently assumed.
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