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How guilt leads to reparation? Exploring the processes underlying the effects of guilt

Abstract

It is widely assumed that guilt leads people to engage into reparatory behaviors. However, the processes underlying this effect are in need for further specification. Four studies tested potential underlying cognitive mechanisms. Results suggest that guilt increases attention toward positive and reparation-oriented cues (Study 1) and makes attitudes toward reparation-oriented primes more positive (Study 3). No effect was found for accessibility of reparation words (Studies 2a, b). Taken together, these results suggest that guilt leads people to pay more attention to reparation means and to develop a more positive attitude toward reparation means, but does not render reparatory means more accessible. Implications for a better knowledge of guilt’s behavioral consequences are discussed.

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Notes

  1. For each study, we planned to run at least 20 participants in each condition (Simmons et al. 2011) , and enrolled as many participants as possible in the time devoted to the experimental sessions.

  2. No moderating effect of gender was found for any of the four studies, Fs < 1.23.

  3. Participants were asked what their mother tongue was and, if not French, at what age did learn French. Only French natives and participants who learnt French during early childhood (before 5 years old) were kept.

  4. Only inverse-transformed data were used for statistical calculation, including bias indexes. Hence confidence intervals for untransformed data are not relevant and not presented here.

  5. We should note that a third experiment was carried out on accessibility, using another progressive demasking paradigm (“PDM”, Feustel et al. 1983, see also; Ferrand et al. 2011). Like in Studies 2a and 2b, no interaction was found between emotion and word type, F = 0.56. It is also worth noticing that including this study in the small scale meta-analysis does not modify the results.

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Correspondence to Aurélien Graton or François Ric.

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Graton, A., Ric, F. How guilt leads to reparation? Exploring the processes underlying the effects of guilt. Motiv Emot 41, 343–352 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-017-9612-z

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Keywords

  • Guilt
  • Cognitive processes
  • Attention
  • Accessibility
  • Implicit attitude