The social side of shame: approach versus withdrawal

Ilona E. de Hooge*, Seger M. Breugelmans, Fieke M.A. Wagemans, Marcel Zeelenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


At present, the consequences and functions of experiences of shame are not yet well understood. Whereas psychology literature typically portrays shame as being bad for social relations, motivating social avoidance and withdrawal, there are recent indications that shame can be reinterpreted as having clear social tendencies in the form of motivating approach and social affiliation. Yet, until now, no research has ever put these alternative interpretations of shame-motivated behaviours directly to the test. The present paper presents such a test by studying the extent to which shame motivates a preference for social withdrawal versus a preference for social approach. Two studies (N = 148 and N = 133) using different shame inductions both showed people experiencing shame to prefer to be together with others (social approach) over being alone (social withdrawal). In addition, the preference for a social situation was found to be unique for shame; it was not found for the closely related emotion of guilt. Taken together, these findings provide direct empirical support for the idea that shame can have positive interpersonal consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1671-1677
Number of pages7
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2018


  • approach behaviour
  • guilt
  • interpersonal behaviour
  • Shame
  • social withdrawal


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