Guilt Proneness and Moral Character
Cohen, T. R., Panter, A. T., & Turan, N. (2012). Guilt proneness and moral character. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 355-359.
20 Pages Posted: 11 May 2014
Date Written: 2012
Guilt proneness is a personality trait indicative of a predisposition to experience negative feelings about personal wrongdoing, even when the wrongdoing is private. It is characterized by the anticipation of feeling bad about committing transgressions rather than by guilty feelings in a particular moment or generalized guilty feelings that occur without an eliciting event. Our research has revealed that guilt proneness is an important character trait because knowing a person’s level of guilt proneness helps us to predict the likelihood that they will behave unethically. For example, online studies of adults across the U.S. have shown that people who score high in guilt proneness (compared to low scorers) make fewer unethical business decisions, commit fewer delinquent behaviors, and behave more honestly when they make economic decisions. In the workplace, guilt-prone employees are less likely to engage in counterproductive behaviors that harm their organization.
Keywords: guilt; personality; unethical behavior; counterproductive work behavior; character; morality
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