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Shame Proneness and Guilt Proneness: Toward the Further Understanding of Reactions to Public and Private Transgressions

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journal contribution
posted on 01.05.1968 by Scott T. Wolf, Taya Cohen, A. T. Panter, Chester A. Insko

In Study 1, participants completed five extant shame and guilt proneness inventories based on different theoretical conceptions of the difference between shame and guilt. Factor analyses revealed that despite very different theoretical distinctions, the shame proneness subscales loaded on one factor, and the guilt proneness subscales loaded on one factor. In Study 2, we altered scale items so that hypothetical transgressions were committed in either public or private, and likelihood response options were either typical of a “shame-prone response” (negative self-evaluation; avoidance behavior) or a “guilt-prone response” (negative behavior evaluation; approach behavior). Our findings indicate that shame and guilt proneness can be measured both by responses to transgressions (e.g., negative self-evaluation and avoidance responses vs. negative behavior evaluation and approach responses) and the situational context in which the transgression occurs (e.g., public vs. private). We provide recommendations regarding optimal measurement of shame and guilt proneness.