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Victims' Symptom : glossary:collective-guilt
 
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Collective guilt

Collective guilt in scientific research: a sense of responsibility for acts of some other member of the group that an individual belongs to, even if this individual has not participated in the act.

Schlesinger-Kipp (2007), investigated a generation of German psychoanalysts who were born between 1930 and 1945, and who grew up in a society that, due to the collective guilt of its adults, either superimposed general self-idealization or self-acquittal with respect to those who were identified as perpetrators of this traumaPsychological trauma can happen soon after witnessing or being the victim of a traumatic event ..., or would not address or process the traumaPsychological trauma can happen soon after witnessing or being the victim of a traumatic event ..., at all. These psychoanalysts, in their responses, perceived their own training analysts, part of the older generation, to have unconsciously, or perhaps even consciously, participated in the collective guilt or self-idealization process.

Iyer A (2007) examined emotions as predictors of opposition to policies and actions of one's country that are perceived to be illegitimate. Two studies investigated the political implications of American and British citizens' anger, guilt, and shame responses to perceived harm caused by their countries' occupation of Iraq. In both studies, a manipulation of pervasive threat to the country's image increased participants' shame but not guilt. The emotions predicted political action intentions to advocate distinct opposition strategies. Shame predicted action intentions to advocate withdrawal from Iraq. Anger predicted action intentions to advocate compensation to Iraq, confrontation of agents responsible, and withdrawal from Iraq. Anger directed at different targets (ingroup, ingroup representative, and outgroup representative) predicted action intentions to support distinct strategies (Study 2). Guilt did not independently predict any political action intentions.

Tangney (2007), discusses that moral emotions represent a key element of human moral apparatus, influencing the link between moral standards and moral behavior. He reviews current theory and research on moral emotions. Focus was first put on a triad of negatively valenced “self-conscious” emotions-shame, guilt, and embarrassment. Tangney discusses current thinking on the distinction between shame and guilt, and the relative advantages and disadvantages of these two moral emotions. Several new areas of research are highlighted: research on the domain-specific phenomenon of body shame, styles of coping with shame, psychobiological aspects of shame, the link between childhood abuse and later proneness to shame, and the phenomena of vicarious or “collective” experiences of shame and guilt. In recent years, the concept of moral emotions has been expanded to include several positive emotions-elevation, gratitude, and the sometimes morally relevant experience of pride.

McGarty (2005) investigated whether the Australian government should officially apologize to Indigenous Australians for past wrongs is hotly debated in Australia. One study showed that group-based guilt was a good predictor of support for a government apology, as was the perception that non-Indigenous Australians were relatively advantaged. The second study found that group-based guilt was an excellent predictor of support for apology and was itself predicted by perceived non-Indigenous responsibility for harsh treatment of Indigenous people, and an absence of doubts about the legitimacy of group-based guilt. National identification was not a predictor of group-based guilt. The results of the two studies suggest that, just as individual emotions predict individual action tendencies, so group-based guilt predicts support for actions or decisions to be taken at the collective level.

Wohl (2005), examined how categorization influences victimized group members' responses to contemporary members of a historical perpetrator group. Specifically, the authors tested whether increasing category inclusiveness–from the intergroup level to the maximally inclusive human level–leads to greater forgivenessThe trait forgiveness is the disposition to forgive interpersonal transgressions over time and across situations ... of a historical perpetrator group and decreased collective guilt assignment for its harmdoing. Among Jewish North Americans (Experiments 1, 2, and 4) and Native Canadians (Experiment 3) human-level categorization resulted in more positive responses toward Germans and White Canadians, respectively, by decreasing the uniqueness of their past harmful actions toward the in-group. Increasing the inclusiveness of categorization led to greater forgivenessThe trait forgiveness is the disposition to forgive interpersonal transgressions over time and across situations ... and lessened expectations that former out-group members should experience collective guilt compared with when categorization was at the intergroup level.

(T.J)

References:

  • Schlesinger-Kipp G. Childhood in World War II: German psychoanalysts remember. J Am Acad Psychoanal Dyn Psychiatry. 2007;35(4):541-54; discussion 537-9.
  • Iyer A, Schmader T, Lickel B. Why individuals protest the perceived transgressions of their country: the role of anger, shame, and guilt. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2007;33(4):572-87.
  • Tangney JP, Stuewig J, Mashek DJ. Moral emotions and moral behavior. Annu Rev Psychol. 2007;58:345-72.
  • McGarty C, Pedersen A, Leach CW, Mansell T, Waller J, Bliuc AM. Group-based guilt as a predictor of commitment to apology. Br J Soc Psychol. 2005;44(4):659-80.

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