Princeton researcher Martin Day, a postdoctoral research associate at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and Ramona Bobocel, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, found proof that the emotional experience of guilt can be grounded in subjective bodily sensation.
The authors wrote that embodied cognition is an emerging field in psychology that examines how our thoughts and emotions interact with our bodies to guide behaviour.
They said that guilt is important because it plays a role in regulating our moral behaviour and can help people correct their mistakes and prevent future wrongdoing.
They wrote that people often say guilt is like a 'weight on one's conscience,' and that they examined whether guilt is actually embodied as a sensation of weight.
In a series of studies they asked students and members of the public to recall a time that they did something unethical.
People recalled a variety of wrongdoings, such as lying, stealing or cheating. Afterward, in a separate task, we asked them to rate their subjective feeling of their own body weight as compared to their average. That is, did they feel less weight than usual, about the same weight, or more weight?
The authors compared these responses to participants in control conditions who recalled an ethical memory, a memory of someone else's unethical actions or who were not asked to recall a memory.
They added that from an embodied cognition framework, they predicted that recalling personal unethical acts would imbue feelings of guilt that would be embodied as greater sensations of weight.
The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.
--ANI (Posted on 09-10-2013)