Date of Award
College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology
Susan Harter, Ph.D.
Blame, Devaluation, Embarrassment, Humiliation, Self-conscious emotions, Shame
This study aimed to expand our knowledge of humiliation by examining the cognitive correlates of this emotion. Since norm violations may often elicit this emotion, attributions of blame and perceived devaluation of the self from others were investigated as possible cognitions that may both link and distinguish this emotion from close emotion relatives, namely embarrassment and shame.
Participants were presented with vignettes that described a social versus moral norm violation. Blame for the event was manipulated by varying who/what caused the norm violation. Perceived devaluation was manipulated by varying what the observing audience knew about the cause of the norm violation. Participants were asked to rate the likelihood of their emotional response in addition to the degree of self/other-blame and the likelihood of perceived devaluation.
Results revealed that humiliation, embarrassment, and shame may be similar in their relationship to self-blame and perceived devaluation. All three emotions were reported as more likely for self-caused norm violations than other-caused and accidental norm violations. Moreover, when the violation was other-caused or accidental, humiliation and embarrassment were reported to be more likely when the audience did not know the cause (higher likelihood of perceived devaluation) than when the audience knew the cause (lower likelihood of perceived devaluation). Additional support for a link with perceived devaluation was revealed by humiliation and shame being rated higher for self-caused moral violations (higher likelihood of perceived devaluation) than self-caused social violations (lower likelihood of perceived devaluation).
Unlike humiliation and embarrassment, shame was found to be rated high in likelihood only when the norm violation was self-caused. In addition, humiliation was the only of the three emotions related to both audience knowledge of the event cause and type of norm violation. These results suggest that a relationship with self-blame may be most meaningful for shame, while a relationship with perceived devaluation may be most meaningful for humiliation.
Overall, the similarities observed among these emotions suggest that humiliation may be appropriately placed alongside embarrassment and shame within the same emotion family. Moreover, the observed differences indicate that, while sharing some overlap, humiliation is fundamentally distinct from embarrassment and shame.
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Danielle Jean Pulham
Received from ProQuest
Pulham, Danielle Jean, "Humiliation and Its Relationship to Embarrassment and Shame" (2009). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 905.