Guilt is considered by many researchers to be the hallmark social emotion. Guilt theories perceive guilt to be a negative emotion with positive interpersonal consequences, and empirical research has shown guilt to motivate prosocial behaviours aimed at restoring the relationship with one's victims. The current research questions the relationship-oriented nature of this emotion. Five experiments reveal that when a person repairs the transgressor's damage caused to a victim, the transgressor's guilt feelings, reparative intentions, and prosocial behaviour decrease. These findings suggest that it is not the relationship with the victim that is important in the regulation of guilt feelings, but rather the reparative actions that have been undertaken. Implications for theory and behavioural research on guilt are discussed.

Guilt, Interpersonal relationships, Prosocial behaviour, Social emotions,
Cognition and Emotion
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

de Hooge, I.E. (2012). The exemplary social emotion guilt: Not so relationship-oriented when another person repairs for you. Cognition and Emotion, 26(7), 1189–1207. doi:10.1080/02699931.2011.640663