Does group identification facilitate or prevent collective guilt about past misdeeds? Resolving the paradox


Olivier Klein, Unité de Psychologie Sociale CP 122, Université Libre de Bruxelles, B-1050 Bruxelles, Belgium (e-mail:


The influence of group identification on collective guilt and attitudes towards reparation was examined in the context of the Belgian colonization of Congo. People should experience collective emotions to the extent that being a member of the relevant group is part of their self-concept. Yet, the acknowledgement of ingroup responsibility for past misdeeds is particularly threatening for high identifiers and may lead to defensive reactions aimed at avoiding guilt. We therefore predicted, and found, a curvilinear effect of identification on collective guilt. Attitudes towards reparation of past wrongdoings were also assessed and yielded a linear trend: identification predicted less favourable attitudes towards reparation but this effect was marginally stronger as identification increased.