Guilt As Motivation: the Role of Guilt in Choice Justification

Uzma Khan , Stanford University, USA
Ravi Dhar, Yale University, USA
Ayelet Fishbach, University of Chicago, USA
Guilt plays an important role in choices and self-control. Past research has treated guilt as an emotion assuming that people feel guilty when primed with guilt-related concepts and this feeling prevents further indulgence. Contrary to an affective view, we suggest a motivational view of guilt. Three studies show that guilt-primes can lead to greater indulgence and reduced experience of guilt. We explain that (1) guilt-primes create a motivation to avoid guilty (2) this motivation promotes interpretation of mundane choices as virtuous (3) virtuous choices then serve as justifications for further indulgence. Our findings contribute to justification and priming research.
[ to cite ]:
Uzma Khan , Ravi Dhar, and Ayelet Fishbach (2009) ,"Guilt As Motivation: the Role of Guilt in Choice Justification", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 27-30.