Shame as a Culture-Specific Emotion Concept

Journal of Cognition and Culture 18 (3-4):274-292 (2018)
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Abstract

On the assumption that shame is a universal emotion, cross-cultural research on shame relies on translations assumed to be equivalent in meaning. Our studies here questioned that assumption. In three studies (Ns, 108, 120, 117),shamewas compared to its translations in Spanish (vergüenza) and in Malayalam (nanakedu). American English speakers usedshamefor the emotional reaction to moral failures and its use correlated positively withguilt, whereasvergüenzaandnanakeduwere used less for moral stories and their use correlated less with the guilt words. In comparison with Spanish and Malayalam speakers’ ratings of their translations, American English speakers ratedshameandguiltto be more similar to each other.

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James Russell
Trent University