Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC San Diego

Motivations of the self-conscious emotions


The self-conscious emotions have been linked with both amends making and avoidance behaviors. The field has largely assumed that these divergent motivations are due to guilt eliciting amends motivations and shame eliciting avoidance motivations. Empirical support for this theory, however, has been largely inconsistent. This dissertation, therefore, presents a new approach to predicting the reactions that follow a social or moral transgression. Specifically, data will be presented in which amends and avoidance motivations are consistently and differentially predicted from the specific sub-components of emotional experience rather than the emotion as a whole. In Chapter 2, participants reported on past experiences of shame, guilt, and embarrassment and the theoretically important affective cognitions and situational factors associated with these emotions. The data suggest that behavior condemnation and the degree of control one has over the resolution predict amends motivations. Self-condemnation and fear of negative evaluation predict avoidance motivations. In Chapter 3, participants reported on a past shaming experience with a physician. Within that experience, avoidance behaviors, such as ceasing visits with the physician, were predicted by self-condemnation and perceptions that the physician was intentionally trying to induce shame or guilt. Amends behaviors, such as improvement in health and motivation to change the problem behavior, were predicted by behavior condemnation. In Chapter 4, participants took part in a laboratory experiment in which they were forced to transgress against another person and their wrongdoing was either exposed to the victim or not. Contrary to theoretical expectations and results from hypothetical studies, the exposure of the transgression to the victim did not change participants' amends behaviors or avoidance desires. Overall, these findings suggest that when people feel a self-conscious emotion (e.g., shame, guilt, or embarrassment), they are motivated to both avoid and amend. The specific affective cognitions that occur during that experience, such as behavior condemnation, self-condemnation, and fear of negative evaluation, predict which path they will take

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View