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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1991 Oct;61(4):598-607.

Moral affect: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia 22030.


The relations among 3 moral affective personality characteristics--shame-proneness, guilt-proneness, and empathic responsiveness--were examined in 4 independent studies of undergraduates. Results indicate that shame and guilt are distinct affective experiences that have important and quite different implications in the interpersonal realm. There was a substantial positive correlation between shame-proneness and guilt-proneness. Nonetheless, as predicted, other-oriented empathic responsiveness was negatively related to proneness to shame but positively correlated with proneness to guilt. In contrast, an index of more self-oriented personal distress was positively linked to shame-proneness. Taken together, these results add a new dimension to the ugliness of shame but suggest that guilt may not be that bad after all, at least in the interpersonal domain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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