A Social relational approach to shame
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Shame has traditionally been associated with withdrawal behaviors. However, recent research has demonstrated that shame is indeed associated with both approach and avoidance motivations. In this dissertation, an alternative explanation assuming that experiences of shame differ depending on the social relational context was proposed and tested within the framework of Relational Models Theory. In four studies, it was examined if the experience of shame and its resulting outcomes vary across social relational situations. Specifically, it was hypothesized that both the activated features of shame (Chapter 3), and the approach and avoidance motivations after a moral transgression (Chapter 4) would differ in the four relational models (Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, Market Pricing). Participants (N = 668, Females = 418) were recruited in four studies. Overall, the results revealed that participants successfully categorized their daily interactions within the four relational models and they identified different moral and social elicitors for shame in each relational model. Perceived shame and arousal levels were rated higher in communal sharing and in authority ranking compared to equality matching and market pricing situations. Moreover, participants rated higher approach motivations in communal sharing and in authority ranking when transgressors were in the superordinate position compared to neutral condition, but rated higher avoidance motivations in market pricing and in authority ranking when transgressors were in the subordinate position compared to other relational situations. The implications of these findings were discussed on the basis of both the shame and social relationships literature.