Chapter 11: Negative Self-Conscious Emotions

Distinct Emotion Theory – Behavior Changes

General Approach/Avoidance Behavior.

To distinguish shame, guilt, and embarrassment we will look at general approach/avoidance behavior, and changes in facial expressions, vocal sounds, and the body.


During shame, people state they have a desire to hide or escape, demonstrating avoidance behavior.  Further, during shame, people report they are not motivated to confess their violation or to apologize to the person they transgressed, showing approach is not a behavior change of shame.  Compared to guilt, shame led to a greater desire to hide, to not admit wrong doing, and to avoid self-awareness – all examples of avoidance behavior (Tangney et al., 1996), During guilt, people report the desire to act and solve the problem by apologizing, confessing, or trying to compensate for the bad deed (Tangney et al., 1996).


Because embarrassment causes a combination of avoidance and approach behavior, embarrassment could be placed in the middle of shame and guilt.  Avoidance behavior includes blushing, smiling, and covering face.  Approach behavior could be joking, smiling, and even laughing. Embarrassment results in less motivation to hide or disappear compared to shame, but also results in less desire to apologize and approach (Tangney et al., 1996).


Avoidance > Shame, Embarrassment, Guilt > Approach 


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