PhilSci Archive

Guilt by association?

Deem, Michael and Ramsey, Grant (2016) Guilt by association? [Published Article or Volume]

[img] PDF

Download (311kB)


Recent evolutionary perspectives on guilt tend to focus on how guilt functions as a means for the individual to self-regulate behavior and as a mechanism for reinforcing cooperative tendencies. While these accounts highlight important dimensions of guilt and provide important insights into its evolutionary emergence, they pay scant attention to the large empirical literature on its maladaptive effects on individuals. This paper considers the nature of guilt, explores its biological function, and provides an evolutionary perspective on whether it is an individual-level or group selected trait. After surveying philosophical and psychological analyses of guilt, we consider which psychological mechanisms underlie the capacity to experience and act from guilt and whether they point to an emergence of guilt in early humans or to guilt having a longer phylogenetic history. Because guilt is a characteristically social emotion, we then examine its contemporary role in social and legal contexts, which may provide clues to its original biological function. Finally, we provide the outlines of two evolutionary explanations for guilt. We argue that group selection may have promoted the capacity to experience guilt, but that under certain conditions there may have been a positive individual selection force as well.

Export/Citation: EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII/Text Citation (Chicago) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
Social Networking:
Share |

Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Keywords: emotion; evolutionary theory; group selection; guilt; shame
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Specific Sciences > Psychology/Psychiatry > Evolutionary Psychology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Psychology/Psychiatry
Depositing User: Dr. Grant Ramsey
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2016 04:02
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2016 04:02
Item ID: 11929
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophical Psychology
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1080/09515089.2015.1126706

Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Monthly Downloads for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item