Guilt, shame, embarrassment and pride are often described as’ self-conscious’ emotions rooted in self-reflection and self-evaluation (Tangney, 2007). Some argue that shame and guilt are different expressions of the same affect and that guilt is a species of moral shame (Tomkins 1963; Izard 1977). Guilt has two sides. Its destructive aspect exacts self-evaluation and punishment for misdoings and may produce symptoms (e.g. depression). While guilt results from the recognition of negative attributes or behaviours, it has another side, sometimes called ‘prosocial’, which may motivate positive, normative action (i.e. norm-governed, compliant behaviour). While a sense of guilt is without doubt necessary for orderly social life, guilty feelings cannot all be explained by reference to their social function. Research shows that guilt often involves not only pro social behaviour but also reparative action: empathy, altruism and caregiving (Batson, 1987; Baumeister et al., 1994; Tangney and Dearing, 2002). Others, especially Tangney and Dearing, argue that this grouping of self-conscious emotions provide essential feedback on the status of one’s social and moral acceptance.
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