Shame, Ethical Identity and Conformity: Lessons from Research on the Psychology of Social Influence

Nathan Harris

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS IS essential to developing an account of why people commit crime and how they react when caught. Research across a number of disciplines suggests that shame, which is the focus of this chapter, plays a significant role in how societies achieve conformity (Barbalet 1998; Benedict 1946; Braithwaite 1989; Scheff 1988). This literature highlights the role that shame plays in preventing individuals from committing criminal offences (Grasmick and Bursik 1990; Svensson 2004; Tittle, Bratton and Gertz 2003; Wikström 2004), as well as its impact on how individuals respond to criminal justice interventions (Ahmed et al 2001; Braithwaite 1989; Retzinger and Scheff 1996). While this breadth of inquiry suggests that shame is an important topic for criminologists, this chapter will draw on social psychological research to argue that current theoretical conceptions do not provide an adequate explanation of the role that shame plays in conformity or deviance. An alternative explanation based on the premise that shame reflects threat to an individual’s ethical identity will be forwarded.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEmotions, Crime and Justice
    Editors Susanne Karstedt, Ian Loader and Heather Strang
    Place of PublicationOxford UK and Portland, OR, USA
    PublisherHart Publishing
    ISBN (Print)9781849461610
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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