Introducing the GASP Scale: A New Measure of Guilt and Shame Proneness
Although scholars agree that moral emotions are critical for deterring unethical and antisocial behavior, there is disagreement about how two prototypical moral emotions—guilt and shame— should be defined, differentiated, and measured. We addressed these issues by developing a new assessment—the Guilt And Shame Proneness scale (GASP)—that measures individual differences in the propensity to experience guilt and shame across a range of personal transgressions. The GASP contains two guilt subscales that assess negative behavior-evaluations (NBEs) and repair action tendencies following private transgressions and two shame subscales that assess negative self-evaluations (NSEs) and withdrawal action tendencies following publically-exposed transgressions. Both guilt subscales were highly correlated with one another and negatively correlated with unethical decision making. Although both shame subscales were associated with relatively poor psychological functioning (e.g., neuroticism, personal distress, low self-esteem), they were only weakly correlated with one another and their relationships with unethical decision making diverged. Whereas shame-NSE constrained unethical decision making, shame-withdraw did not. Our findings suggest that differentiating the tendency to make negative self-evaluations following publically-exposed transgressions from the tendency to hide or withdraw from public is critically important for understanding and measuring dispositional shame proneness. The GASP’s ability to distinguish these two classes of responses represents an important advantage of the scale over existing assessments. Although further validation research is required, the present studies are promising in that they suggest the GASP has the potential to be an important measurement tool for detecting individuals susceptible to corruption and unethical behavior.