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Do we feel the same level of guilt about the wrongdoings of close ones and distant ones? The mediating role of behavioural control


  • This report was funded by a grant from the Graduate Students Scientific Research Innovation Projects of Chongqing (CYS2015059). Jiafang Chen contributed in conception, design and writing the article; Jia Wei contributed in the analysis and interpretation of data for this article; Pengli Shang contributed in collection of data for this article; Xin Wang contributed in the correction of grammatical and spelling errors for this article; Jinfu Zhang contributed in revising the article for intellectual content.


Understanding whether and why individuals' emotional responses are different to the same behaviour performed by different others is important for understanding phenomena in social interaction. Given that there is no relevant research in Eastern culture testing such issues, the present research including two studies was conducted with Chinese samples and investigated whether Easterners experience more vicarious guilt about close ones' immoral behaviours than distant ones' immoral behaviours and the underlying mechanism of the effect. Study 1 showed that people felt more guilty when recalling close ones' misdeeds than distant ones' misdeeds. Study 2 replicated the findings of Study 1 using the scenario method and demonstrated that behavioural control partially mediated the effect of relationship closeness on vicarious guilt, that is, people reported more behavioural control over close ones' immoral behaviours, which in turn resulted in more vicarious guilt. Implications for social interaction and directions for future research are discussed.