Evidence for the Distinctness of Embarrassment, Shame, and Guilt: A Study of Recalled Antecedents and Facial Expressions of Emotion
Following proposals regarding the criteria for differentiating emotions, the current investigation examined whether the antecedents and facial expressions of embarrassment, shame, and guilt are distinct. In Study 1, participants wrote down events that had caused them to feel embarrassment, shame, and guilt. Coding of these events revealed that embarrassment was associated with transgressions of conventions that govern public interactions, shame with the failure to meet important personal standards, and guilt with actions that harm others or violate duties. Study 2 determined whether these three emotions are distinct in another domain of emotion-namely, facial expression. Observers were presented with slides of 14 different facial expressions, including those of embarrassment, shame, and candidates of guilt (self-contempt, sympathy, and pain). Observers accurately identified the expressions of embarrassment and shame, but did not reliably label any expression as guilt.