'I'd Only Let You Down': Guilt Proneness and the Avoidance of Harmful Interdependence

Wiltermuth, S. S., & Cohen, T. R. “I’d only let you down”: Guilt proneness and the avoidance of harmful interdependence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Forthcoming

64 Pages Posted: 20 May 2014 Last revised: 26 Jun 2014

See all articles by Scott S. Wiltermuth

Scott S. Wiltermuth

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Taya R. Cohen

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Five studies demonstrated that highly guilt-prone people may avoid forming interdependent partnerships with others whom they perceive to be more competent than themselves, as benefiting a partner less than the partner benefits one’s self could trigger feelings of guilt. Highly guilt-prone people who lacked expertise in a domain were less willing than were those low in guilt proneness who lacked expertise in that domain to create outcome-interdependent relationships with people who possessed domain-specific expertise. These highly guilt-prone people were more likely than others both to opt to be paid on their performance alone (Studies 1, 3, 4, & 5) and to opt to be paid based on the average of their performance and that of others whose competence was more similar to their own (Study 2 & 5). Guilt proneness did not predict people’s willingness to form outcome-interdependent relationships with potential partners who lacked domain-specific expertise (Studies 4 & 5). It also did not predict people’s willingness to form relationships when poor individual performance would not negatively affect partner outcomes (Study 4). Guilt proneness therefore predicts whether, and with whom, people develop interdependent relationships. The findings also demonstrate that highly-guilt prone people sacrifice financial gain out of concern about how their actions would influence others’ welfare. As such, the findings demonstrate a novel way in which guilt proneness limits free-riding and therefore reduces the incidence of potentially unethical behavior. Lastly, the findings demonstrate that people who lack competence may not always seek out competence in others when choosing partners.

Keywords: Guilt Proneness; Interdependence; Self-Efficacy; Equity Theory; Free-Riding

Suggested Citation

Wiltermuth, Scott S. and Cohen, Taya R., 'I'd Only Let You Down': Guilt Proneness and the Avoidance of Harmful Interdependence (2014). Wiltermuth, S. S., & Cohen, T. R. “I’d only let you down”: Guilt proneness and the avoidance of harmful interdependence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2438880

Scott S. Wiltermuth

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA California 90089
United States

Taya R. Cohen (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
4122686677 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.tepper.cmu.edu/our-faculty-and-research/about-our-faculty/faculty-profiles/tcohen/cohen-t

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