When Is Shame Linked to Constructive Approach Orientation? A Meta-Analysis

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Despite recent evidence that episodic shame can be linked to the constructive approach of failure (i.e., prosociality, self-improvement), the prevailing view is that shame is neither constructive nor approach-oriented. To integrate these opposing views, we conducted a theory-driven meta-analysis of 90 samples from the published literature (N = 12,364). As expected, shame had a positive link to constructive approach when failure (g = .47, 95% confidence interval [CI] [.37, .55]) or social image (g = .37, 95% CI [.06, .68]) was more reparable. In contrast, shame had a negative link to constructive approach when failure was less reparable (g = −.34, 95% CI [−.53, −.14]). A supplemental meta-analysis of 42 samples showed shame and guilt to have a similar positive link to constructive approach orientation when failure was more reparable (g = .44 and .43), but not when it was less reparable (g = −.08 and .27).

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