Original Paper

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 42-55

First online:

The Approach and Avoidance Function of Guilt and Shame Emotions: Comparing Reactions to Self-Caused and Other-Caused Wrongdoing

  • Toni SchmaderAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Arizona Email author 
  • , Brian LickelAffiliated withUniversity of Southern California

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Although theory suggests that guilt motivates approach tendencies and shame motivates avoidance tendencies, research has not always supported these relationships. The present study examined the degree to which shame and guilt are uniquely predictive of avoidance and approach motives, respectively, for both self-caused and other-caused wrongdoings. Results revealed that shame and guilt are more highly correlated for self-caused compared to other-caused wrongdoings. This greater blending of shame and guilt in response to self-caused acts makes it somewhat more difficult to distinguish between different unique motivational correlates of these two emotions. However, in response to other-caused wrongdoings, shame uniquely predicted avoidance tendencies (distancing from the event), whereas guilt uniquely predicted approach tendencies (repairing the event). The implications for research on motivation, emotion, and social relations are discussed.


shame guilt group-based emotion approach–avoidance motivation