ABSTRACT

Self-conscious emotions, such as shame and guilt, have been found by much previous research to be important factors in individuals’ decisions to engage in criminal activity. Previous studies, especially regarding criminological research, have focused on the situational states of such anticipated emotions at the time of a given incident. However, a large amount of psychological research has tended to focus on the more time-stable traits of such emotions, including shameproneness, guilt-proneness, and others. This chapter will examine both the effects of such various emotions on both a state (or situational) level, as well as the infl uence of such self-conscious emotions in a more time-stable/trait form. Notably, it is believed that this is one of the fi rst studies that has actually examined the situational states and long-term, dispositional traits of multiple key self-conscious emotions in a single study. The study reported in this chapter will support previous fi ndings that both shame and guilt have a signifi cant effect on individuals’ intentions to engage in a specifi c criminal act given in a detailed scenario of theft, but that shame was inconsistent, limited to only an infl uence at the state level. It was also found that other self-conscious emotions which are often neglected in the criminological literature – specifi cally empathy and pride – were found to be consistent factors in individuals’ predicted decisions to commit the crime, due to their signifi cant association at both state-level and trait-level indicators (inversely and positively, respectively). Other traditional factors in rational choice models of crime, anticipated sanctions and expected benefi ts, were also found to be signifi cant predictors of individuals’ intentions to commit the criminal act, but when emotional states and traits were accounted for, the effect of these traditional deterrence/rational choice variables were negated for the most part. Thus, it would appear that controlling for emotional factors appear to account for much of the infl uence of traditional deterrence factors, especially perceived certainty and severity of formal sanctions.