Do we feel the same level of guilt about the wrongdoings of close ones and distant ones? The mediating role of behavioural control

Jiafang Chen, Jia Wei, Pengli Shang, Xin Wang, Jinfu Zhang
Published Online:
13 Jul 2016
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 53 Issue 4

Additional Options

Understanding whether and why individuals' emotional responses are different to the same behaviour performed by different others is important for understanding phenomena in social interaction. Given that there is no relevant research in Eastern culture testing such issues, the present research including two studies was conducted with Chinese samples and investigated whether Easterners experience more vicarious guilt about close ones' immoral behaviours than distant ones' immoral behaviours and the underlying mechanism of the effect. Study 1 showed that people felt more guilty when recalling close ones' misdeeds than distant ones' misdeeds. Study 2 replicated the findings of Study 1 using the scenario method and demonstrated that behavioural control partially mediated the effect of relationship closeness on vicarious guilt, that is, people reported more behavioural control over close ones' immoral behaviours, which in turn resulted in more vicarious guilt. Implications for social interaction and directions for future research are discussed.

© 2016 International Union of Psychological Science