Emotions Shape Decisions Through Construal Level: The Case of Guilt and Shame


Published: 26Sep2014

Authors: Han, DaHee, Adam Duhachek, and Nidhi Agrawal
Publication:  Journal of Consumer Research


Four experiments show that emotions systematically influence judgments and persuasion by altering construal levels. Guilt-laden consumers, relative to those who were shame-laden, adopted lower levels of construal. In subsequent unrelated judgments, guilt increased reliance on feasibility over desirability attributes and emphasized secondary rather than primary features. Shame led to the opposite pattern. Guilt’s tendency to draw behavior-specific appraisals activates local appraisal tendencies and endows lower construal levels, whereas shame’s tendency to implicate the entire self activates global appraisal tendencies and endows consumers with higher construal levels. As a boundary condition to the core effect, the results showed that the differences between guilt and shame only held when the emotions arose from actions rather than from inaction situations. These findings provide insight into when and why guilt and shame have different effects on subsequent decisions.

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