Self-conscious emotions and social functioning

I.E. de Hooge, M. Zeelenberg, S.M. Breugelmans

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Have you ever felt guilty about hurting a loved one, or been proud after achieving something that you always dreamed of? These emotions, but also embarrassment, shame, and hubris, are called self-conscious emotions. They are a special kind of emotions that cannot be described solely by examining facial movements (Darwin, 1872/1965) and that do not have clear, distinct elicitors (Lewis, 2000). Selfconscious emotions are cognitively complex and play a central role in the motivation and regulation of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Heatherton, 1994; Leith & Baumeister, 1998; Tangney & Fischer, 1995). Until now, most research concerning the relationship between self-conscious emotions and social behavior has focused on their anticipation affects of what people do (e.g., Gruenewald, Dickerson, & Kemeny, 2007; Keltner & Buswell, 1997; Tracy & Robins, 2004). The anticipation of negative self-conscious emotions such as shame or guilt can motivate avoidance of immoral or asocial behavior (I will not do that, otherwise I will feel ashamed), and the anticipation of positive self-conscious emotions such as pride can stimulate compliance with social and moral norms (If I do that, I will be proud of myself). Also, actual experiences of self-conscious emotions may exert an influence. For example, when people feel ashamed, they do certain things because of that (e.g., hide or try to appease). The aim of the present chapter is to shed some light on how experiences of self-conscious emotions are regulated and as such influence social behavior. We will start with a discussion concerning the definition of self-conscious emotions and how they differ from so-called basic emotions. Then the focus shifts to existing research concerning the influences of self-conscious emotions on moral and social behavior. We will discuss how these often-contrasting findings can be interpreted using an emotion-specific approach. Finally, two self-conscious emotions, namely shame and guilt will be highlighted. We will explain how our approach can clarify the contrasting, empirical findings concerning the influences of shame and guilt on behavior (e.g., Gilbert & Andrews, 1998; Lewis, 1971, 1992; Tangney & Dearing, 2002; Tangney & Fischer, 1995).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmotion Regulation and Well-Being
EditorsI. Nyklicek, A. J. J. M. Vingerhoets, M. Zeelenberg
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherSpringer Publishers
ISBN (Print)9781441969521
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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