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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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The Interpersonal Effect of Guilt Expressions on Cooperation: The Role of Social Perceptions

Keywords: cooperation, guilt expressions, cognitive empathy, affective empathy, benevolence

Abstract: We conducted two experiments to investigate the social perceptions that would arise regarding a transgressor who expresses guilt after he or she commits a social transgression, and how these would subsequently affect the cooperative behaviour of the victims of the transgression. Study 1 demonstrated that there was an indirect effect of a transgressor’s guilt expression on a victim’s cooperation via the victim’s perception of the transgressor’s cognitive empathy, but not via the victim’s perception of the transgressor’s perspective-taking. Study 2 replicated this finding in a different culture and with a different guilt message and further demonstrated that the victim’s perception of the transgressor’s affective empathy was also not a significant mediator. Our research suggests the mechanisms regarding the appeasement function of guilt and illustrates how relationships may be repaired after a social transgression by examining social transgressions from the perspective of the victim, rather than the transgressor.

Nadhilla Melia, Singapore Management University

Ming-Hong Tsai, Singapore Management University


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