Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Guilt and Shame

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_521-1



Shame and guilt are both characterized by negative thoughts that involve the self to varying degrees. They are self-conscious and negative (that is, unpleasant) emotions, as opposed to positive self-conscious emotions such as pride and awe. As moral emotions, they can motivate people to avoid immoral behavior but also cause unneeded distress if felt at the wrong time, and, as unpleasant emotions, people may be motivated to escape or avoid them rather than accepting their lessons. Much research on shame and guilt is based on an individual differences approach, proposing that people are susceptible in different degrees to shame and guilt.


Two main views of the difference between shame and guilt have predominated in psychology. The first view, the “act-person” distinction, has arguably had the most influence in social and personality psychology today. Shame, in this distinction, involves blaming the whole self,...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of KentCanterbury, KentUK