2 - The Measurement of Collective Guilt: What It Is and What It Is Not  pp. 16-34

The Measurement of Collective Guilt: What It Is and What It Is Not

By Nyla R. Branscombe, Ben Slugoski and Diane M. Kappen

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



Emotions can be ephemeral. How events are appraised and the subjective experience they generate can rapidly shift with changes in the social context. In order to capture people's emotional responses to events, psychologists have employed a variety of methods including the assessment of facial expressions (Ekman, 1984), physiological reactivity (Pennebaker, 1982) and, most commonly, self-report methods (Shaver et al., 1987). Particularly for the self-conscious emotions of pride, shame, and guilt, for which differential physiological symptoms are not expected, researchers have primarily relied on various participant self-assessments (Tangney & Fischer, 1995). Individual differences in the tendency to experience these emotions are generally assessed via self-ratings of the frequency, duration, or intensity with which they are felt. Indices that capture agreement or disagreement with Likert-type statements concerning how much the emotion is experienced with respect to a particular referent are also often employed. In this chapter, we report on the construction and validation of a self-report scale to assess various aspects of the collective guilt experience.

Theoretical bases of guilt

There is considerable agreement concerning the antecedent conditions that are necessary for personal guilt to be experienced. Weiner (1995) argues that guilt is most likely to be experienced when the self is seen as responsible for a negative outcome. From an attribution perspective, guilt occurs when an internal attribution is made for a controllable negative outcome that results in harm to another.

Barkan, E. (2000). The guilt of nations. New York: W. W. Norton
Baumeister, R. F. , Stillwell, A. M. , & Heatherton, T. F. (1994). Guilt: An interpersonal approach. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 243–67
Baumeister, R. F., & Hastings, S. (1997). Distortions of collective memory: How groups flatter and deceive themselves. In J. W. Pennebaker, D. Paez, & B. Rime (Eds.), Collective memory and political events: Social psychological perspectives (pp. 277–93). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum
Bizman, A. , Yinon, Y. , & Krotman, S. (2001). Group-based emotional distress: An extension of self-discrepancy theory. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1291–1300
Branscombe, N. R. , Wohl, M. J. A. , Owen, S. , Allison, J. A. , & N'gbala, A. (2003). Counterfactual thinking, blame assignment, and well-being in rape victims. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 25, 265–73
Branscombe, N. R., & Miron, A. M. (2004). Interpreting the ingroup's negative actions toward another group: Emotional reactions to appraised harm. In L. Z. Tiedens & C. W. Leach (Eds.), The social life of emotions. New York: Cambridge University Press
Branscombe, N. R., Doosje, B., & McGarty, C. (2002). Antecedents and consequences of collective guilt. In D. M. Mackie & E. R. Smith (Eds.), From prejudice to intergroup emotions: Differentiated reactions to social groups (pp. 49–66). Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press
Branscombe, N. R., Schmitt, M. T., Schiffhauer, K., & Valencia, L. (2003). Racial attitudes in response to thinking about White privilege
Brooks, R. L. (1999). The age of apology. In R. L. Brooks (Ed.), When sorry isn't enough: The controversy over apologies and reparations for human injustice (pp. 3–12). New York: New York University Press
Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, P. (1964). The approval motive. New York: Wiley
Devine, P. G., & Monteith, M. J. (1993). The role of discrepancy-associated affect in prejudice reduction. In D. M. Mackie & D. L. Hamilton (Eds.), Affect, cognition, and stereotyping: Interactive processes in group perception (pp. 317–44). New York: Academic Press
Doosje, B. , Branscombe, N. R. , Spears, R. , & Manstead, A. S. R. (1998). Guilty by association: When one's group has a negative history. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 872–86
Durkheim, E. (1915). The elementary forms of religious life. New York: Free Press
Ekman, P. (1984). Expression and the nature of emotion. In K. S. Scherer & P. Ekman (Eds.), Approaches to emotion (pp. 319–44). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
Fazio, R. H. , & Hilden, L. E. (2001). Emotional reactions to a seemingly prejudiced response: The role of automatically activated racial attitudes and motivation to control prejudiced reactions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 538– 49
Ferguson, T. J., & Stegge, H. (1998). Measuring guilt in children: A rose by any other name still has thorns. In J. Bybee (Ed.), Guilt and children (pp. 19–74). San Diego, CA: Academic Press
Fletcher, G. J. O. , Danilovics, P. , Fernandez, G. , Peterson, D. , & Reeder, G. D. (1986). Attributional complexity: An individual differences measure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 875–84
Frijda, N. H. , Kuipers, P. , & Ter Schure, E. (1989). Relations among emotion, appraisal, and emotional action readiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 212–28
Glick, P. (2002). Sacrificial lambs dressed in wolves' clothing: Envious prejudice, ideology, and the scapegoating of Jews. In L. S. Newman & R. Erber (Eds.), Understanding genocide: The social psychology of the Holocaust (pp. 113–42). New York: Oxford University Press
Goldhagen, D. J. (1996). Hitler's willing executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Knopf
Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relationships. New York: Wiley
Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review, 94, 319–40
Hoffman, M. L. (1991). Development of prosocial motivation: Empathy and guilt. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), The development of prosocial behavior (pp. 281–313). New York: Academic Press
Ignatieff, M. (1997). The elusive goal of war trials. Harpers, 294, 15–18
Kluegel, J. R., & Smith, E. R. (1986). Beliefs about inequality: Americans' view of what is and what ought to be. Hawthorne, NJ: Aldine de Gruyter
Kravitz, D. A. , & Platania, J. (1993). Attitudes and beliefs about affirmative action: Effects of target and respondent sex and ethnicity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 928–38
Kugler, K. E. , & Jones, W. H. (1992). On conceptualizing and assessing guilt. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 318–27
Leach, C. W., Snider, N., & Iyer, A. (2002). “Poisoning the consciences of the fortunate”: The experience of relative advantage and support for social equality. In I. Walker & H. J. Smith (Eds.), Relative deprivation: Specification, development, and integration (pp. 136–63). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
Lewis, M. (1993). Self-conscious emotions: Embarrassment, pride, shame, and guilt. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (pp. 563–73). New York: Guilford Press
Lindsay-Hartz, J., De Rivera, J., & Mascolo, M. F. (1995). Differentiating guilt and shame and their effects on motivation. In J. P. Tangney & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Self-conscious emotions: The psychology of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride (pp. 274–300). New York: Guilford Press
Mackie, D. M. , Devos, T. , & Smith, E. R. (2000). Intergroup emotions: Explaining offensive action tendencies in an intergroup context. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 602–16
McGraw, K. M. (1987). Guilt following transgression: An attribution of responsibility approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 247–56
Minow, M. (1998). Between vengeance and forgiveness: Facing history after genocide and mass violence. Boston, MA: Beacon Press
Niedenthal, P. , Tangney, J. , & Gavanski, I. (1994). “If only I weren't” versus “If only I hadn't”: Distinguishing shame and guilt in counterfactual thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 585–95
Parkinson, B. (1995). Ideas and realities of emotion. London: Routledge
Pennebaker, J. W. (1982). The psychology of physical symptoms. New York: Springer
Piers, G., & Singer, M. B. (1971). Shame and guilt. New York: Norton
Powell, A. A., Branscombe, N. R., & Schmitt, M. T. (2003). Inequality as “ingroup privilege” or “outgroup disadvantage”: The impact of group focus on collective guilt and interracial attitudes. Manuscript submitted for publication
Pratto, F. , Sidanius, J. , Stallworth, L. M. , & Malle, B. F. (1994). Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 741–63
Rosenberg, M. (1979). Conceiving the Self. New York: Basic Books
Schmitt, M. T. , Branscombe, N. R. , & Kappen, D. M. (2003). Attitudes toward group-based inequality: Social dominance or social identity? British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 161–86
Shaver, P. , Schwartz, J. , Kirson, D. , & O'Connor, C. (1987). Emotion knowledge: Further explorations of a prototype approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1061–86
Smith, E. R. , & Henry, S. (1996). An in-group becomes part of the self: Response time evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 635–42
Smith, R. H. , Webster, J. M. , Parrott, W. G. , & Eyre, H. L. (2002). The role of public exposure in moral and nonmoral shame and guilt. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 138–59
Swim, J. K. , & Miller, D. L. (1999). White guilt: Its antecedents and consequences for attitudes toward affirmative action. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 500–14
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup conflict. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 7–24). Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall
Tangney, J. P. , Wagner, P. , Fletcher, C. , Gramzow, R. (1992). Shamed into anger? The relation of shame and guilt to anger and self-reported aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 669–75
Tangney, J. P., & Fischer, K. W. (Eds.). (1995). Self-conscious emotions: The psychology of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride. New York: Guilford Press
Turner, J. C. , Oakes, P. J. , Haslam, S. A. , & McGarty, C. (1994). Self and collective: Cognition and social context. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 454–63
Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Oxford: Blackwell
Uleman, J. S. , Hon, A. , Roman, R. , & Moskowitz, G. B. (1996). On-line evidence for spontaneous trait inferences at encoding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 377–94
Wallbott, H. G., & Scherer, K. R. (1995). Cultural determinants in experiencing shame and guilt. In J. P. Tangney & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Self-conscious emotions: The psychology of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride (pp. 465–87). New York: Guilford Press
Weiner, B. (1995). Judgments of responsibility: A foundation for a theory of social conduct. New York: Guilford Press
Yzerbyt, V., Dumont, M., Gordijn, E., & Wigboldus, D. (2002). Intergroup emotions and self-categorization: The impact of perspective-taking on reactions to victims of harmful behavior. In D. M. Mackie & E. R. Smith (Eds.), From prejudice to intergroup emotions: Differentiated reactions to social groups (pp. 67–88). Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press
Yzerbyt, V., Rocher, S., & Schadron, G. (1997). Stereotypes as explanations: A subjective essentialistic view of group perception. In R. Spears, P. J. Oakes, N. Ellemers & S. A. Haslam (Eds.), The social psychology of stereotyping and group life (pp. 20–50). Oxford: Blackwell