The role of shame, guilt and embarrassment in online social dilemmas

Vasalou, A.; Joinson, A. and Pitt, J. (2006). The role of shame, guilt and embarrassment in online social dilemmas. In: Proceedings of the 20th BCS HCI Group Conference: Engage, HCI 2006 pp. 108–112.


The self-conscious emotions of shame, guilt and embarrassment are known for regulating human societies by (1) encouraging the wrongdoer to further comply and (2) extending reparation to the one damaged. Self-awareness is a requisite for the experience of self-conscious emotions. In this paper, we hypothesise that low self-awareness online deprives an offender of the emotional consequences that usually follow a norm violation. Therefore, the aforementioned pro-social benefits of self-conscious emotions are not made possible. We test this hypothesis in a study during which online offenders were assigned to either high or low self-awareness conditions. The results show that high self-aware participants, in contrast to low self-aware participants, experience more self-conscious emotions, collaborate more when given a second opportunity and apologise more frequently.

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