• THE Effects of Social Rank on Shame and Guilt

      Bohaska, Alexandra (2014-03-18)
      The differentiation of shame and guilt is not widely discussed. The reason why some people feel shame while others feel guilt is also not universally understood. Various theories have examined cultural influences and how individuals attribute the outcome of various situations. This paper discusses past theories of the reasons behind shame and guilt and conducts a study that examines how social rank, or lack thereof, could affect a person’s emotional response. It was predicted that when the participants, consisting of college undergraduates and residents of a private community, are primed towards feelings of superordination or equality, via vignettes, they would experience feelings of guilt, whereas those primed towards feelings of subordination would experience shame. Results indicated that there were no differences in feelings of shame and guilt, but the condition participants were placed into may have affected the intensity of these feelings. Furthermore, females were found to report higher levels of guilt than males across all conditions. Lastly, an order effect was found between which vignette appeared first to a participant, resulting in the analysis of only the first vignette a participant received. The results are discussed and it is indicated that the unequal distribution of age, gender and location, in addition to the dropout rate and low number of participants may have affected the lack of significant findings. Finally, it is recommended that a more thorough population and real-life situations be used in the future in order to yield more concrete results.