Category: Adult Depression / Dysthymia

PS14- #A1 - When Making Amends Makes You Feel Worse: Guilt-Related Action Mediates Guilt-Related Evaluation and Depression

Saturday, Nov 18
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Adult Depression | Cognitive Processes | Emotion

Shame and guilt are moral emotions that are each consistently associated with depression and other forms of psychopathology. Shame- and guilt-proneness each have cognitive-emotional and behavioral components. Shame involves both a negative self-evaluation (NSE) and the tendency to withdraw from shame-provoking situations. Guilt involves a negative evaluation of one’s own behavior (NBE) and the behavioral component of seeking to repair the issues caused by one’s negative behavior. The cognitive-behavioral model of psychopathology posits that thoughts impact emotions and that thoughts and emotions impact behavior. Based on this model, we hypothesized that the behavioral components of moral emotions would mediate the relationship between the cognitive-behavioral components of the moral emotions and depression. We predicted that shame NSE, shame withdrawal, guilt NBE, and guilt repair would each have a strong relationship with depression. We predicted that the relationship between shame NSE and depression would be mediated by shame withdrawal, and that the relationship between guilt NBE and depression would be mediated by guilt repair.


The scores of 433 adults were analyzed using Model 4 of the PROCESS macro for SPSS. Contrary to the hypothesis, shame withdrawal did not mediate the relationship between shame NSE and depression. This is because shame withdrawal did not predict depression neither within the mediation model (b=-12, p=.13) nor by itself using a linear regression (b=.01, p=.89).


A regression analysis was used to determine whether guilt repair mediates the effect of guilt NBE on depression. The regression coefficient between guilt NBE and guilt repair (b=.72) was significant, t(431)=23.62, pb=.36; t(430)=2.53, p=.01. Unstandardized indirect effects were computed for each of 5,000 bootstrapped samples, and the effect was .20, 95% CI=.05, .35. Thus, there was a significant indirect effect of guilt NBE on depression through guilt withdrawal. The relationship between guilt NBE and depression reduced from b=.23, t(431)=3.3 (p=.001) to b=.03, t(430)=.03 (p=.68).  The mediator accounts for the majority of the total effect, PM = .85.


Each hypothesis regarding the guilt-depression relationship was supported by the analysis. Unexpectedly, shame withdrawal was not significantly predictive of depression in this model. It is possible that the relationship between shame withdrawal and depression is non-linear. It is important to understand the relationship between guilt and depression, because high levels of moral emotions are prevalent among those highly depressed. A better understanding of this relationship can help direct future research and aid in the treatment of depression.

Deah Abbott

Graduate Research Assistant
University of Central Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Caleb W. Lack

Associate Professor
University of Central Oklahoma
Edmond, Oklahoma