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Document Type

Article

Abstract

This article expands on a model that conceptualizes guilt as a multidimensional construct with affective and cognitive dimensions. In the model, guilt magnitude is a function of the magnitudes of five variables posited as primary components of guilt: distress and four interrelated beliefs about one's role in a negative event. Originally proposed to account for guilt that emerges in the context of traumatically stressful events, the model may also help account for guilt that occurs in response to common-guilt evoking events. Eight contextual variables that promote distress and activate guilt cognitions are identified, drawing attention to social or situational factors that contribute to guilt. The contextual variables are used to explain why trauma-related guilt is common and usually more chronic and severe than commonplace guilt. Initial evidence for the model is summarized and directions for future research discussed.

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