ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (3): 371-385.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.00371

• Meta-Analysis • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The effects of shame on prosocial behavior: A systematic review and three-level meta-analysis

GUO Ying(), TIAN Xin, HU Dong, BAI Shulin, ZHOU Shuxi   

  1. School of Psychology, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610066, China
  • Received:2022-07-07 Online:2023-03-15 Published:2022-12-22
  • Contact: GUO Ying


Shame is a typical moral emotion whose effects on prosocial behavior were not consistent in previous studies. Some studies have shown its constructive effects on prosocial behavior, while others have demonstrated its destructive effects on prosocial behavior. Thus, some factors may have a potential impact on the role of shame on prosocial behavior. In view of this, this study used the three-level meta-analysis to integrate relevant empirical studies to examine the effects of shame on prosocial behavior and the role of moderating variables in the relationship.
The study was conducted according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P). And literature search and screening were conducted using common Chinese and international databases, including CNKI, PubMed, Web of Science, Elsevier, EBSCO, ProQuest, etc. The keywords for shame were “shame”, and for prosocial behavior were “prosocial behavior”, “helping behavior”, “altruistic behavior”, etc. By February 2022, 26 papers (20 in English and 6 in Chinese) with 85 effect sizes were included, with a total sample size of 5823 participants. The research used the metafor package in R to conduct three-level meta-analysis, which solves the problem that the effect size of traditional meta-analysis is not independent, preserves the integrity of information and improves the statistical efficiency.
The results of the publication bias test indicated that there was no significant publication bias in this study. Based on the main effect test, the shame group showed much more prosocial behavior than the control group (g = 0.33), suggesting that shame can promote the generation of prosocial behavior. The heterogeneity test found significant differences in both within-study variance (levels 2) and between-study variance (levels 3), which indicates significant heterogeneity between studies. The moderating effect test revealed that shame was more likely to induce prosocial behavior in the expose situation than in the masking situation. However, the moderating effects of age, cultural background, shame-induced method, the type of shame, the type of prosocial behavior, and the generating situation of prosocial behavior (experimental situation or daily situation) were not significant, suggesting that the influence of shame on prosocial behavior has a strong stability.
The study is the first to demonstrate that shame promotes prosocial behavior by using a three-level meta-analysis method, which responds to the controversy of the existing theories and research findings on the topic and provides support for the theory that shame facilitates prosocial behavior. Moreover, for the first time, cultural background, the type of shame, and generating situation of prosocial behavior were examined as moderating variables to investigate the relationship between the two, revealing the reasons for the heterogeneity of shame's influence on prosocial behavior. It provides a new perspective or theoretical interpretation of the inconsistent conclusions of the existing studies on the relationship between the two, and contributes to the theoretical construction of indigenous research on the topic. Based on the findings of this study, future explorations of this topic need to be examined combined with situational factors. Subsequent research could further investigate the influence of cognitive factors and individual characteristics in the effects of shame on prosocial behavior, and examine the different effects of shame and other moral emotions on prosocial behavior.

Key words: shame, prosocial behavior, three-level meta-analysis, moderating effect

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