Morality and Masochism: Feeling Guilt Leads to Physical Self-Punishment

Yoel Inbar, Harvard University, USA
David Pizarro, Cornell University, USA
Tom Gilovich, Cornell University, USA
One important way in which people deal with feeling guilty is through metaphorical actions, such as physical cleansing in order to "wash away" misdeeds (Zhong & Liljenquist, 2006). In two studies, we investigated whether individuals with feelings of guilt seek to metaphorically balance the scales in another way—through self-inflicted physical punishment. Participants who wrote about feeling guilty (Study 1) or about a time that they did something unethical (Study 2) administered stronger shocks to themselves than those who wrote about feeling sad (Study 1) or about a neutral event (Studies 1 and 2).
[ to cite ]:
Yoel Inbar, David Pizarro, and Tom Gilovich (2010) ,"Morality and Masochism: Feeling Guilt Leads to Physical Self-Punishment", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 37, eds. Margaret C. Campbell, Jeff Inman, and Rik Pieters, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 211-214 .