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On the interplay between pain observation, guilt and shame proneness and honesty

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Seeing others in pain can stimulate powerful socio-emotional responses. Does it also make us more moral? In two laboratory experiments, we examined the interplay between pain observation, self-reported guilt and shame, subjective perceptions of pain intensity, and subsequent honest behavior. Watching a confederate perform a moderately painful (vs. non-painful) task did not affect honest behavior in a subsequent die-roll task. Independent of pain observation, there was a positive relationship between self-reported guilt proneness and shame proneness and honesty. More specifically, individuals who are more prone to feeling guilt -and to a lesser extent shame- behaved more honestly. Furthermore, we found weak support for the hypothesis that greater perceived pain (rather than objective pain) is associated with less cheating. We call for further research in the interconnections between perceived pain, guilt, shame, and moral behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103920
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • Expectations, Guilt proneness, Morality, Pain, Performers-observers gap effect

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