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Culture and the Perceived Reparability of Shame: The Role of Self-Construals
AuthorCrowder, Marisa K.
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Shame is typically associated with antisocial behaviors (withdrawal and aggression). However, recent research by Leach and Cidam (2015) has revealed that shame can also lead to reparative behaviors when the shameful situation is perceived as repairable. This finding has important implications for understanding the mechanisms that lead to unexplained cultural differences. Specifically, shame is associated with withdrawal behaviors in individualistic cultures, but with reparative behaviors in collectivistic cultures. This dissertation tests a model that integrates both lines of research to explain why these differences emerge. The model assumes that shame is perceived as repairable when reparation includes engaging in culturally learned behavior patterns (i.e., repairing the culturally-congruent self); especially when that aspect of self is shamed. Four studies test this hypothesis by randomly assigning individuals to experience (Study 1) or recall (Study 2 through 4) a shameful situation that targeted the independent or interdependent self. Across the four studies, participants were provided the option to repair the aspect of self that was shamed, the aspect of self that was congruent with their self-construal (self-direction) or to engage in non-repair. Findings showed that individuals were more likely to engage in a non-reparative task over a reparative one, and that those high in self-direction were more likely to repair the self than those low in self-direction. Further, cultural differences in the behavioral consequences of shame reflected conditions of incongruence, rather than congruence. In Study 1, those high in self-direction were more likely than those low in self-direction to repair the independent self when the interdependent self and to repair the interdependent self when the independent self was shamed. In Study 4, when the independent self was shamed, those high in self-direction were most likely to select the non-reparative option compared to those low in self-direction. Conversely, those low in self-direction were most likely to repair the interdependent self. These results enhance our understanding of shame and underscore the importance that context plays in understanding the link between culture and the behavioral consequences of shame. Implications and future directions are discussed.