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Abstract

Three studies are reported in which we examined the relation between responsibility and guilt. Results from Study 1 suggested that responsibility increased as a function of guilt, but that the reverse relation did not emerge. In the second and third studies we primed either responsibility or guilt and examined how these primes influenced subsequent appraisals for novel events. We also used different manipulations of responsibility and guilt. In Study 2 guilt was operationalized as negative interpersonal consequences as evidenced by the reactions of others. Responsibility was varied by manipulating the controllability of negative outcomes. In Study 3 responsibility was manipulated in terms of the severity of negative consequences for oneself. Results of both studies showed that guilt primes gave rise to perceptions of responsibility but that responsibility primes did not affect perceptions of guilt. We conclude that responsibility is best regarded as an elaborated appraisal generated by guilt, rather than an antecedent of guilt. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.