Crime Fiction: Guilt vs. Shame Predict Ciminal Re-offense
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According the national crime statistics, 13 million individuals who pass through our nation's jails and prisons annually.
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The findings show that inmates who feel guilt about specific behaviors are more likely to stay out of jail later on, whereas those that are inclined to feel shame about the self might not.
The difference between guilt and shame might seem subtle, but researcher June Tangney and her colleagues Jeffrey Stuewig and Andres Martinez of George Mason University hypothesized that feeling one or the other of these emotions might contribute to different outcomes for incarcerated individuals.
- "When people feel guilt about a specific behavior, they experience tension, remorse, and regret," the researchers write. "Research has shown that this sense of tension and regret typically motivates reparative action -- confessing, apologizing, or somehow repairing the damage done."
- Feelings of shame, on the other hand, involve a painful feeling directed toward the self. For some people, feelings of shame lead to a defensive response, a denial of responsibility, and a need to blame others -- a process that can lead to aggression.
"Proneness to guilt predicts less recidivism -- a lower likelihood of re-offense," Tangney says. That is, the more inclined an inmate is to feel guilt, the less likely he or she is to re-offend.
The implications of proneness to shame, on the other hand, were more complex. Inmates inclined to feel shame, and who were also defensive and blamefull of others, were more likely to slip back into crime. Inmates who were shameful but who didn't blame others were less likely to end up in jail again.
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Story Source: J. P. Tangney, J. Stuewig, A. G. Martinez. Two Faces of Shame: The Roles of Shame and Guilt in Predicting Recidivism. Psychological Science, 2014