Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shame and attribution

Over the past few decades shame has come to be seen as increasingly important in psychology. It can help people to behave better, prevent damage to social status and alert people to behaviour that might threaten their relationships. However, shame has also been linked to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and addictions. Attributions - the cause people assign to events - are thought to play an important part in people's feelings of shame and researchers at the University of Alberta, in Canada, looked into the links between attribution and shame. They conducted in-depth interviews with 13 people who had experienced an incident which caused them shame and then recovered from it. They found that initially shame was felt to be due to fundamental and inherent character flaws which the participants were powerless to control. However, as time went on people attributed their shame to specific and temporary factors, their self-esteem recovered and they regained a sense of power and control over their future. The shared and external factors that contributed to the event were also idenfitied.

Van Vliet, K. Jessica - The role of attribution in the process of overcoming shame: a qualitative analysis Psychology and Psychotherapy: theory, research and practice June 2009, 82(2), 137-152

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