Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

After committing a crime, guilt and shame predict re-offense

Date:
February 11, 2014
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Within three years of being released from jail, two out of every three inmates in the US wind up behind bars again -- a problem that contributes to the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. New research suggests that the degree to which inmates' express guilt or shame may provide an indicator of how likely they are to re-offend.

Within three years of being released from jail, two out of every three inmates in the US wind up behind bars again -- a problem that contributes to the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. New research suggests that the degree to which inmates' express guilt or shame may provide an indicator of how likely they are to re-offend.
Credit: © jinga80 / Fotolia

Within three years of being released from jail, two out of every three inmates in the US wind up behind bars again -- a problem that contributes to the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. New research suggests that the degree to which inmates' express guilt or shame may provide an indicator of how likely they are to re-offend.

The findings show that inmates who feel guilt about specific behaviors are more likely to stay out of jail later on, whereas those that are inclined to feel shame about the self might not.

This research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The difference between guilt and shame might seem subtle, but researcher June Tangney and her colleagues Jeffrey Stuewig and Andres Martinez of George Mason University hypothesized that feeling one or the other of these emotions might contribute to different outcomes for incarcerated individuals.

"When people feel guilt about a specific behavior, they experience tension, remorse, and regret," the researchers write. "Research has shown that this sense of tension and regret typically motivates reparative action -- confessing, apologizing, or somehow repairing the damage done."

Feelings of shame, on the other hand, involve a painful feeling directed toward the self. For some people, feelings of shame lead to a defensive response, a denial of responsibility, and a need to blame others -- a process that can lead to aggression.

Tangney and her colleagues interviewed over 470 inmates, asking them about their feelings of guilt, shame, and externalization of blame soon after they were incarcerated. The researchers followed up with 332 of the offenders a year after they had been released, this time asking them whether they had been arrested again and whether they had committed a crime but had not been caught. They also compared the self-reported data to official arrest records.

Overall, expressions of guilt and shame were associated with recidivism rates, but in different ways.

"Proneness to guilt predicts less recidivism -- a lower likelihood of re-offense," Tangney says. That is, the more inclined an inmate is to feel guilt, the less likely he or she is to re-offend.

The implications of proneness to shame, on the other hand, were more complex.

Inmates inclined to feel shame, and who were also defensive and blameful of others, were more likely to slip back into crime. Inmates who were shameful but who didn't blame others were less likely to end up in jail again.

These findings suggest that there may be "two faces" of shame -- one that increases recidivism and one that does just the opposite.

"It has implications for intervention for the more than 13 million individuals who pass through our nation's jails and prisons annually," says Tangney. "We hope that inmates will ultimately benefit from treatment enhanced by an appreciation for the positive potential of guilt, and an appreciation for the 'two faces' of shame."

The researchers believe this work opens up doors for evaluating other aspects of restorative justice, and they plan to investigate the links between guilt, shame, and other post-release outcomes, including substance abuse, mental health issues, and readjustment into their communities.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. P. Tangney, J. Stuewig, A. G. Martinez. Two Faces of Shame: The Roles of Shame and Guilt in Predicting Recidivism. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613508790

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "After committing a crime, guilt and shame predict re-offense." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211103334.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, February 11). After committing a crime, guilt and shame predict re-offense. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211103334.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "After committing a crime, guilt and shame predict re-offense." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140211103334.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins