ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (8): 1325-1336.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2020.01325

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Constructive or destructive? A dual-pathway model of shame

WANG Yu(), LI Mengju   

  1. Research Center for Psychological and Health Sciences, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, China
  • Received:2019-12-23 Online:2020-08-15 Published:2020-06-28
  • Contact: Yu WANG


Shame is a self-conscious emotion that plays an important role in individual behaviour and personal psychological development. Shame is also a significant moral emotion in traditional Chinese culture and is a major way that Chinese people examine themselves and their own behaviours. There are two opposing views on the value of shame. In other words, is shame a constructive or a destructive emotion? Theoretical models include: (1) Shame as a destructive emotion includes models of social self-threat and shame adjustment and so on. (2) Shame as a constructive emotion includes those models of evolutionary psychology as well as the functionalist perspective. Both views on shame are supported by a large number of empirical studies. In order to examine the concept of shame systematically and comprehensively, this paper proposes a dual-pathway structural model with the goal of improving our understanding of the mechanisms underlying shame-induced behaviours. In our study, we highlight the critical role of social self-threat and the need to repair social self-image. Future studies are needed to develop more objective and comprehensive measures of shame and take account of the cultural factors that influence social self-healing. More objective analyses are needed to help people understand the interpretation of shame as experienced by those from different cultural backgrounds. Thus, more targeted interventions can be proposed and facilitate the constructive transformation of the potentially destructive consequences of individual shame.

Key words: shame, social threats, functionality

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