What do the TOSCA guilt and shame scales really measure: Affect or action?

  • Giner-Sorolla R
  • Piazza J
  • Espinosa P
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Psychologists have long used the Test of Self-Conscious Affect (TOSCA) as an instrument for empirically distinguishing between trait emotions of guilt and shame. Recent assessments of the internal structure of the TOSCA guilt scale suggest that it may not measure the experience of guilt, but rather motivation to make amends for personal wrongdoing. In contrast, TOSCA shame may better assess the tendency to experience negative self-conscious affect. Previous research did not take into account that TOSCA guilt theoretically should only predict emotions in a situation of wrongdoing; we put this idea to the test in two studies. Experimental, but not control, participants received believable feedback that they had shown involuntary prejudice towards a member of a minority group. In both studies TOSCA guilt predicted reparative action after feedback was given, including expressing non-prejudiced views and recommending financial compensation to the minority group. However, TOSCA guilt had no relationship with feelings of guilt or shame after expressing prejudice. In contrast, TOSCA shame was a better predictor of feelings of guilt, shame and other self-critical emotions, but did not predict compensatory action. These findings suggest motivation rather than emotion as a mechanism behind past findings involving TOSCA guilt. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Guilt
  • Prejudice
  • Reparations
  • Self-conscious emotion
  • Shame
  • Test of Self-Conscious Affect (TOSCA)

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  • Roger Giner-Sorolla

  • Jared Piazza

  • Pablo Espinosa

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