ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (7): 1626-1636.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01626

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Compensate others or protect oneself ? The difference of the effects of guilt and shame on cooperative behavior

HAO Na, CUI Liying()   

  1. Department of Psychology, College of Education, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
  • Received:2021-04-15 Online:2022-07-15 Published:2022-05-17
  • Contact: CUI Liying


As two common and easily confused self-conscious emotions, many researchers have studied the antecedents and aftereffects of guilt and shame. In recent years, researches have gradually focused on the effect of both on cooperative behavior. By combining the existing studies, we found that there are differences in the impact and mechanism of guilt and shame on cooperative behavior. The effect of guilt is more stable and universal, and the impact of shame, which is more vulnerable to other factors, is complex and diverse. The motivation and regulation mechanisms explain the different effects of guilt and shame on cooperative behavior. First, the motivation mechanism includes the compensation and repair motivation of guilt to others and the protection and repair motivation of shame to self. The compensation and repair motivation of guilt to others is mainly reflected in maintaining fairness in social interaction; making up for the harm caused to others and reducing the pain; repairing interpersonal relationships and regaining the acceptance and recognition of others or oneself. The protection and repair motivation of shame to self is mainly reflected in releasing negative emotional state; maintaining a positive self-image and reputation to repair self; protecting oneself to prevent subsequent injury and adverse consequences. Generally speaking, guilty people pay attention to negligent behaviors and consequences, focusing on compensating for the injured others or repairing the relationship with others. In contrast, the ashamed people pay attention to the damage of the overall self, focusing on protecting the self and repairing their social image. Based on this and previous research, we constructed a comparative model of the motivation mechanism of guilt and shame affecting cooperative behavior. Second, the regulation mechanism involves individual and situational factors. Individual factors include cognitive factors, social value orientation, self-control ability, emotional traits and state. Situational factors include the following situations: exposure and masking; experimental and daily; related and unrelated. Specifically, the influence of guilt on cooperative behavior is less limited by the situation, while shame is more limited by situational factors. It can promote the emergence of cooperative behavior in the exposed or related situations, while in the masked or unrelated situations, shame has difficulty affecting individual cooperative choice. In both experimental and daily situations, guilt affects cooperation more than shame. Finally, there are some deficiencies in previous studies. The effectiveness of the induction and measurement methods of guilt and shame still needs to be tested. The process and physiological mechanisms of the impact of the two emotions on cooperative behavior are still unclear. The research on the impact of individual factors is insufficient, and cross-cultural research is relatively lacking. Therefore, future research can expand and investigate the effectiveness of guilt and shame induction and measurement methods, the internal process and physiological mechanism of emotional effects, and the individual and cultural differences in emotional effects.

Key words: guilt, shame, cooperative behavior, motivation mechanism, regulation mechanism

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