Shame, dissociation and cognition : an experimental investigation.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Shame is considered an influential human emotion that can have critical effects on aspects of human functioning, including guiding behaviour and shaping a person’s sense of identity. In order to better identify shame, it is vital to distinguish shame behaviours from those of other self-conscious emotions. The current study examined shame and the degree to which eye gaze diversion is associated with shame generally, or rather more isolated to either internal or external shame. Additionally, it explored whether experiences of dissociation would increase after the shame induction. Lastly, intrusive thoughts following shame induction were examined. Individuals in counselling for psychological problems (N = 33) completed four measures assessing trait and state shame and dissociation, and listened to shame-inducing and neutral narratives while either viewing themselves in a mirror (internal shame), looking at the experimenter (external shame) or looking at a neutral screen (neutral). Eye gaze diversion was recorded during the experimental task. Higher gaze diversion and dissociation were found when verbalising the shame narrative compared with the neutral narrative in all conditions. Additionally, intrusion frequency and distress were elevated the day after exposure to the stimuli, but decreased on day two. The current study has important implications for the identification of shame, and demonstrates that dissociation increases during shame activation. This understanding can provide direction for future research which may aid in the identification of further shame behaviours and could lead to better therapeutic outcomes when considered.