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Emotion. 2009 Feb;9(1):118-22. doi: 10.1037/a0014540.

When guilt evokes self-punishment: evidence for the existence of a Dobby Effect.

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  • 1Department of Social Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, the Netherlands. r.m.a.nelissen@uvt.nl

Abstract

Feelings of guilt may be resolved in various ways. The scientific literature has mainly highlighted beneficial interpersonal consequences of guilt, showing repeatedly that guilt motivates compensatory pro-social behavior to repair social bonds. The authors reveal that when opportunities for compensation are not present, guilt may evoke self-punishment. Self-punishment was demonstrated through self-denied pleasure in a scenario study, and by self-enforced penalties in an experimental study. The authors call this tendency for self-punishment the Dobby Effect, and discuss it as an explanation for the widely held conviction that atonement absolves sins, its contribution to some types of psychopathology, as well as its possible functional relevance.

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PMID:
19186924
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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