chapter  9
20 Pages

Self-Conscious Emotion and Self-Regulation


What would life be like if the self-conscious emotions were absent from our daily experience, if there were no shame, embarrassment, guilt, or pride? At first blush one might think that such a life would be more pleasurable, free, and unconstrained by the regard of others. The self-conscious emotions, after all, are a frequent source of displeasure, constraint, and confusion in our social lives. In this chapter we arrive at the opposite conclusion: that the self-conscious emotions are vital to adaptive social living. In making this argument we first consider the elements of self-regulation. We rely on these notions to then organize what is known about the self-conscious emotions, focusing in particular upon embarrassment, shame, and guilt (less is known about the varieties of pride). In so doing we argue that the self-conscious emotions serve a regulatory function, repairing social relations in the face of transgressions. Finally, to lend additional credence to our analysis, we discuss our own studies of children with externalizing tendencies, children with autism who are high functioning, and adults with orbitofrontal damage, to show how the self-conscious emotions are compromised in relation to self-regulatory deficits.