Who wants to be collectively guilty? A causal role for motivation in the regulation of collective guilt
Two studies tested the role of guilt instrumentality in motivating the regulation of collective guilt up or down by motivated reasoning, and its dependence on mental resources. In Study 1 participants (N = 93) were randomly assigned to learn that guilt is beneficial, detrimental or neither. Consistent with the instrumental approach to emotion regulation, learning that guilt is beneficial led to higher levels of collective guilt following an ingroup transgression compared to the other conditions. In Study 2 (N = 178), we tested the hypothesis that regulation of collective guilt involves motivated reasoning and is cognitively demanding. Consistent with predictions derived from cognitive energetics theory, the effect of guilt instrumentality on collective guilt replicated when mental resources were not constrained, but was not observed under cognitive load. The findings suggest that individuals may be motivated to increase or reduce collective guilt depending at least partly on its instrumentality, and are willing to invest mental resources in such regulation.
KeywordsCollective guilt Emotion regulation Motivated reasoning Cognitive load
The research was funded by German-Israeli Foundation (GIF) for Scientific Research and Development Young Scientist Grant # I-2359-105.4/2014 to the first author.
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