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Reassessing the Dimensionality of the Moral Emotions

Harris, Nathan
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) British Journal of Psychology. 94: 457-473.

The dimensionality of the moral emotions was tested to examine whether theoretical distinctions between specific emotions were empirically supported. A total of 720 drink-driving offenders indicated the degree to which they experienced feelings associated with the moral emotions, in an interview conducted after attending court or a restorative justice conference. Expected distinctions between shame and guilt were not found. Instead the principal components analysis identified three factors: shame–guilt, embarrassment– exposure, and unresolved shame. The results also show that shame-guilt was related to higher feelings of empathy and lower feelings of anger/ hostility. It is concluded that differences between shame and guilt may be overstated. Furthermore, it is suggested that the relationship between situational experiences of shame and the disposition to feel it may be more complicated than initially thought. (author’s abstract).


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