Guilty by Association: When One's Group Has a Negative History

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Abstract

The impact of the history of one's own group's treatment of another group on feelings of collective guilt and behavioral reactions to this guilt were examined in 2 studies. In a laboratory experiment, it was shown that it is possible to elicit feelings of group-based guilt and that those are distinct from feelings of personal guilt. In a 2nd study, a field experiment, low-identified group members acknowledged the negative aspects of their own nation's history and felt more guilt compared with high identifiers when both negative and positive aspects of their nation's history were made salient. Perceptions of intragroup variability and out-group compensation closely paralleled the interactive pattern on guilt. Links between social identity theory and the experience of specific emotions are discussed.

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