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Review

A Theory of Guilt Appeals: A Review Showing the Importance of Investigating Cognitive Processes as Mediators between Emotion and Behavior

1
LIP/PC2S, Université Savoie Mont-Blanc and Université Grenoble Alpes, 38000 Grenoble, France
2
ISAE/SUPAERO, Université de Toulouse, 31055 Toulouse, France
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Behav. Sci. 2019, 9(12), 117; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs9120117
Received: 16 October 2019 / Revised: 9 November 2019 / Accepted: 16 November 2019 / Published: 20 November 2019
Guilt appeals in the field of persuasion are quite common. However, the effectiveness of these messages is sometimes ambivalent. It is widely acknowledged that guilt leads people to engage into prosocial behaviors, but the effects of guilt can also be counter-productive (e.g., reactance-like effects). We argue that the explanations for these contradictions remain unsatisfactory and suggest that taking into account the implications of underlying cognitive—especially attentional—mechanisms would provide a better understanding of these paradoxical outcomes. This article provides a brief review of the literature on the link between guilt and pro-social behaviors and its classical interpretations. We propose a reinterpretation of this link by taking into account specific attentional processes triggered by the emotion of guilt. Attentional biases are, in our opinion, better predictors of the effectiveness of a message than the amount of emotion induced by the same message. This consideration should guide future research in the field of guilt appeals and pro-social behaviors. Implications, in terms of a broader comprehension of the emotion–behavior association in decision making processes, are discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: guilt; emotions; attention; persuasion; cognitive processes; decision making guilt; emotions; attention; persuasion; cognitive processes; decision making
MDPI and ACS Style

Graton, A.; Mailliez, M. A Theory of Guilt Appeals: A Review Showing the Importance of Investigating Cognitive Processes as Mediators between Emotion and Behavior. Behav. Sci. 2019, 9, 117. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs9120117

AMA Style

Graton A, Mailliez M. A Theory of Guilt Appeals: A Review Showing the Importance of Investigating Cognitive Processes as Mediators between Emotion and Behavior. Behavioral Sciences. 2019; 9(12):117. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs9120117

Chicago/Turabian Style

Graton, Aurélien, and Melody Mailliez. 2019. "A Theory of Guilt Appeals: A Review Showing the Importance of Investigating Cognitive Processes as Mediators between Emotion and Behavior" Behavioral Sciences 9, no. 12: 117. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs9120117

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