How to make someone feel guilty: Strategies of guilt inducement and their goals

The sense of guilt has attracted an extraordinary amount of attention in psychology, especially in the clinical and psychodynamic domains in general, and has given rise to a correspondingly large number of studies focusing upon the role played by guilt in the development of the individual personality, in psychopathology, and in the evolution of different cultures. The same cannot be said for the "strategies" of guilt inducement, that is, the different ways and forms of inducing a sense of guilt in another person. Strategies of guilt inducement do, however, appear to be a subject worthy of investigation in its own right. They enter into a very broad spectrum of social interactions, involving a variety of cognitive and emotional processes, and are a key to the understanding of the goals involved in these interactions, of both the individual and the social functions they serve, and of the cognitive tools for accomplishing them. If it is true that the sense of guilt plays a crucial role in developing a sense of individual and social responsibility and moral behavior in general, it is equally true that, as a means of instilling this sense, strategies of guilt inducement are a powerful social weapon fostering the learning and internalization of social norms. Within the sphere of individual relationships, they are also a particularly effective way of exercising one's power over others. The aims of the present paper are as follows: to provide a definition of strategy of guilt inducement; to identify various types of strategy in terms of different dimensions (aggressive vs. adoptive; communicative vs. non communicative); to examine the goals of the "guilt inducer" (both those common to all strategies and those specific to particular strategies); and to offer a perspective from which to explore the sense of guilt itself. The "chords" played upon in guilt inducement strategies are, in fact, also clues as to the ingredients of the sense of guilt.

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Blackwell,, Oxford , Regno Unito
Journal for the theory of social behaviour (Print) 22 (1992): 81–104. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5914.1992.tb00211.x
info:cnr-pdr/source/autori:MICELI, Maria/titolo:How to make someone feel guilty: Strategies of guilt inducement and their goals/doi:10.1111/j.1468-5914.1992.tb00211.x/rivista:Journal for the theory of social behaviour (Print)/anno:1992/pagina_da:81/pagina
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