Contextualizing Shame: The Importance of Culture and Discrimination in the Study of Self-Conscious Emotions




Collardeau, Fanie

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Within Western psychology, shame is often seen as a maladaptive and hard to regulate selfconscious emotion. Yet, there is some emerging evidence that our knowledge of shame, and the emotion itself, are deeply influenced by cultural assumptions. I first start by providing a critical review of the literature on shame, highlighting differing, culturally-informed conceptualizations of shame in the West and in China and Taiwan. This review also highlights the potential role of social threats and discrimination in the social construction of shame for individuals. Study One then qualitatively explores the beliefs about shame and coping strategies used by Pakistani immigrants to Canada, without imposing a Western lens. Study Two tests two common assumptions about shame (i.e., shame and guilt are two distinct, separate emotions; past experiences of discrimination do not need to be systematically included) present in Western psychology in a Canadian (i.e., Western) sample. While shame is an innate emotional experience, findings suggest that shame and guilt may not be two fully distinct and separate emotions, and that past experiences of discrimination are positively associated with feelings of inferiority present in state shame.



shame, guilt, cross-cultural, discrimination