Who Wants to Wash Away their Sins? Guilt and Shame Proneness and Behavioral Moral Cleansing Endorsement: a Pilot Study

Alexandra MAFTEI, Ioan-Alex MERLICI


In our pilot cross-sectional study, we aimed to explore the associations between guilt and shame proneness and moral cleansing endorsement. Our sample consisted of 484 adults (73.3% females), aged 18 and 53 (M=24.09, SD=7.32). We used a novel approach to explore moral cleansing mechanisms, i.e., a two-item scale assessing behavioral cleansing endorsement (one's agreement with the idea that people must "wash away" their immoral acts by acting in ethical ways that would "clean" their moral debt). In addition to the significant associations that we found between moral cleansing endorsement and the guilt and shame proneness dimensions (i.e., negative behavior evaluation, repair action tendencies, negative self-evaluation, and withdrawal action tendencies), results also suggested that moral cleansing endorsement was significantly predicted by overall guilt and shame proneness. More specifically, we found that higher levels of guilt and shame proneness might account for higher moral cleansing endorsement levels. We also found important associations with participants' age: our findings suggested that the higher the age, the higher the endorsement for moral actions aimed to "clean" immoral deeds. Results are discussed in relation to cultural-related factors.


guilt, shame, moral behavior, moral cleansing, age

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