Guilty Feelings, Targeted Actions

Published on Feb 14, 2012in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
· DOI :10.1177/0146167211435796
Cynthia Cryder14
Estimated H-index: 14
(WashU: Washington University in St. Louis),
Stephen Springer1
Estimated H-index: 1
Carey K. Morewedge27
Estimated H-index: 27
Early investigations of guilt cast it as an emotion that prompts broad reparative behaviors that help guilty individuals feel better about themselves or about their transgressions. The current investigation found support for a more recent representation of guilt as an emotion designed to identify and correct specific social offenses. Across five experiments, guilt influenced behavior in a targeted and strategic way. Guilt prompted participants to share resources more generously with others, but only did so when those others were persons whom the participant had wronged and only when those wronged individuals could notice the gesture. Rather than trigger broad reparative behaviors that remediate one’s general reputation or self-perception, guilt triggers targeted behaviors intended to remediate specific social transgressions.
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