Complex Emotions Derived From Disgust

The complex emotions of guilt, shame, and embarrassment are part of the group known as self-conscious emotions (e.g., Lewis, 1993) in that they require an internal evaluation of the self against a set of rules, standards, or goals and in which the self or some aspect of the self is seen to have failed (see Figure 9.2). There is now agreement that guilt refers in particular to specific aspects or acts which fall short of some standard, whereas in shame it is the self rather than some specific act or aspect that is at fault (e.g., Johnson-Laird & Oatley, 1989). The more global nature of shame typically leads the individual to desire to avoid the painful person or situation,

SUCCESS FAILURE

GLOBAL

SPECIFIC

SUCCESS FAILURE

GLOBAL

SPECIFIC

HUBRIS

SHAME

PRIDE

GUILT/ REGRET

Figure 9.2 The relationship of self-conscious emotions to success-failure and global-specific characteristics (based on Lewis, 1993).

Figure 9.2 The relationship of self-conscious emotions to success-failure and global-specific characteristics (based on Lewis, 1993).

whereas the more specific nature of guilt means that it is more associated with attempts at reparation (e.g., Niedenthal, Tangney, & Gavanski, 1994).

There is interesting evidence that girls may be more prone to shame but boys more prone to guilt even in the face of the same problem. In one particularly devious set of psychology experiments (Barrett, Zahn-Waxler, & Cole, 1993) when a toy apparently collapses because of the child's action, girls were found to be more likely to show shame reactions in which they avoided the owner of the toy, whereas boys were more likely to show guilt and try to make reparation. This sex difference is also present in adulthood, in that women on average score higher on disgust sensitivity scales than do men (Druschel & Sherman, 1999; Mancini, Gragnani, & D'Olimpio, 2001; Marzillier & Davey, 2004; Rozin et al., 1993). Given that shame-proneness is now thought to be more associated with psychopathology than is guilt-proneness (e.g., Niedenthal et al., 1994; Tangney & Dearing, 2002), this sex difference may relate to the higher rates observed for particular emotional disorders in women, as we will argue subsequently (see also Chapter 7).

The recent focus on the role of shame in psychopathology breaks with the traditional psychoanalytic focus on guilt. This focus stemmed largely from Freud's (1917) analysis of melancholia in which he highlighted the operation of a "critical agency" (later called the superego) whose standards the individual fails to meet. We noted in Chapter 7 that most diagnostic systems for depression such as the American DSM system and the World Health Organization's ICD system identify guilt as a core symptom of depression. However, we share the views of recent theoreticians (e.g., Tangney, 1992, 1999; Tangney & Dearing, 2002) who argue instead that shame is the key emotion in depression in the sense meant here, in which we define shame as disgust directed towards the self. The point that we wish to emphasise, however, is that although both shame and guilt are derived from the basic emotion of disgust, in shame it is the self rather than an act carried out by the self that becomes the object of that disgust.

The recent increase in interest in the self-conscious emotions (e.g., see the edited book by Tangney & Fischer, 1995) has provided new impetus to the study of shame and guilt and the question of their role in development, normal functioning, and psychopathology. Whereas an analysis of the function of disgust begins within the individual, an analysis of the function of shame and guilt is best begun with a consideration of their interpersonal characteristics. Recent analyses of shame emphasise its role in social dominance hierarchies in which submission and defeat versus dominance and triumph may be frequent consequences (e.g., Barrett, 1995; Gilbert, 2000). In an account of shame and guilt that, allowing for differences in terminology and minor points of emphasis, runs similar to the present SPAARS approach, Barrett (1995) has proposed seven principles, as outlined in the following.

1 Shame and guilt are primarily social emotions that develop from early social interactions, and that primarily occur in the context of real or imagined social interactions.

2 Shame and guilt have important functions; for example, shame typically functions to distance the individual from others, whereas guilt leads the individual to make reparation to others.

3 Particular "appreciations" (i.e., "appraisals" in more common usage) are associated with shame and guilt. Barrett proposes that the key appraisal in shame is of both self and other seeing the self as bad, whereas guilt involves a failure to meet one's standards which may have led to the other being harmed by this failure.

4 Shame and guilt are associated with particular action tendencies (or what we have called propensities for action); as stated above, shame tends to lead to distancing whereas guilt tends towards reparation.

5 Shame and guilt aid in the development of the self. The experience of shame and guilt during development provides models for the child of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and, in addition, provides the child with important feedback about how the self is viewed by significant others, which in turn guides the development of the self.

6 Shame and guilt do not require particular cognitive stages of development for their occurrence, but are observable early on in development. Although this proposal appears to contradict the notion that shame and guilt are therefore "self-conscious", Barrett's view is consistent with our own in the sense that early applications of disgust towards the self can be observed in the child, which, although not fully developed in the form of being self-conscious, provide the foundations on which the self-conscious forms of shame and guilt (in, for example, Lewis's, 1993, sense considered earlier) may subsequently develop.

7 Shame and guilt therefore have crucial socialisation roles because the child wants to follow social standards, and cares about the opinions of others.

An additional aspect of Barrett's theory that takes it even closer to the SPAARS approach is her endorsement of the fact that emotion is not only generated by "appreciations" (appraisals), but may also occur in their absence, that is, by means of what we have termed the direct route:

[Appraisals] are typically involved in an emotion process, but, like any other aspect of the emotion process, [they] are not viewed as necessary for an emotion to unfold. Brain stimulation, emotion communication from a conspecific, or other such stimuli may initiate an emotion process. The emotion process elicited without an [appraisal] often differs phenomenologically from that elicited by an [appraisal], but it is still recognisable as a member of the same emotion "family". (Barrett, 1995, p. 36)

In the SPAARS approach we have grouped these non-appraisal possibilities together in our direct access route, whereas Barrett does not clarify whether the different non-appraisal examples that she cites are separate routes to emotion or whether they feed into a common mechanism. Other emphases within the SPAARS approach that are not considered by Barrett include the proposal that the basic emotions and their derivatives may become organised modularly; that the emotion state can be maintained via internal feedback between the associative, propositional, and schematic model representations; that the emotions may become coupled with each other and thereby lead to more chronic domination of working memory. Perhaps the most important difference of all is that in the SPAARS approach the complex emotions of shame and guilt are derived from the basic emotion of disgust, whereas there is no such conceptual model within Barrett's approach.

In comparison to shame and guilt, embarrassment may be even more complex in that it can be derived from either fear or disgust (Johnson-Laird & Oatley, 1989) or perhaps, as we suggested above, possible combinations of the two. Embarrassment, though, is normally less intense than the experience of shame, and indeed it can to some degree be positive when it occurs for example in the context of being praised by someone else in public; thus, blushing can accompany either the positive or the negative versions of embarrassment.

Contempt is another disgust-related emotion, although the object of contempt is typically another person rather than the self. Conceptually it seems to represent a combination of both disgust and anger, although Ekman (e.g., 1999, 2002) still argues that it is a basic emotion. In fact, in a scaling analysis of ratings of facial emotion, Rozin et al. (1994) reported that contempt was closer to anger than to disgust in multi-dimensional space.

Overall, therefore, we propose that there are a number of complex emotions that are derived from the basic emotion of disgust. These emotions include guilt, shame, embarrassment, and contempt; they primarily involve disgust being focused in varying degrees on the self or on aspects of the self and, as a consequence, it can be argued that they form the basis of a number of emotional and appetitive disorders that will be considered next.

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