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“I’d Only Let You Down”: Guilt Proneness and the Avoidance of Harmful Interdependence

Scott Wiltermuth, USC

Five studies demonstrated that highly guilt-prone people may avoid forming interdependent partnerships with others whom they perceive to be more competent than themselves, as benefitting a partner less than the partner benefits one’s self could trigger feelings of guilt. Highly guilt-prone people who lacked expertise in a domain were less willing than were those low in guilt proneness who lacked expertise in that domain to create outcome-interdependent relationships with people who possessed domain-specific expertise. Guilt proneness therefore predicts whether, and with whom, people develop interdependent relationships. The findings also demonstrate that highly-guilt prone people sacrifice financial gain out of concern about how their actions would influence others’ welfare. As such, the findings demonstrate a novel way in which guilt proneness limits free-riding and therefore reduces the incidence of potentially unethical behavior. Lastly, the findings demonstrate that people who lack competence may not always seek out competence in others when choosing partners.

Monday, October 20, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Los Angeles, CA, Haines Hall 352, UCLA

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