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  1. William K. Hahn

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0867

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Hahn, W. K. 2010. Shame. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.

Author Information

  1. University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Shame is a complex experience characterized by overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, perseverative reproachful thoughts, condemning and accusatory imagery, and an urge to hide or withdraw (Lewis, 1971). The nonverbal signs that accompany shame include lowering the head and gaze, averting eye contact, social withdrawal, slumping shoulders, and blushing. At the heart of this experience is a sense of utter exposure of a personal flaw that has been perceptually magnified and is believed to be visible to a devaluing and condemning audience, while objective self-evaluations fade from awareness. This cognitive process results in a distorted impression that the revealed characteristics are deplorable and accurately reflect the totality of one's character, leading to the belief that one is unacceptable and to an excruciating sense of aloneness. In other words, shame is a negative self-evaluation experienced as if this evaluation came from others. As such, one is simultaneously both the object and the agent of contempt. Despite its unpleasantness, everyone experiences shame from time to time.


  • affective attunement;
  • affective misalignment;
  • humiliated fury;
  • narcissism