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Title: Shame, guilt and empathy in sex offenders
Author: San, A.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2006
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In this paper I will review literature concerning shame and distinguish it from other similar emotions such as embarrassment and guilt. Shame and guilt are emotional reactions that often occur in response to transgressions, and concern perceived evaluations by others and/or the self. It has been proposed that shame and guilt have very different effects, and that guilt acts as a mediator, whereas shame acts as a barrier to the experience of empathy. Shame and guilt and their relationship to empathy will be explored, and key studies demonstrating their inter-relationships will be critically evaluated. The latter part of this review will focus on sex offenders, and will discuss the relevance of considering and incorporating an understanding of self-conscious emotions in the treatment of sex offenders. The emerging findings concerning shame, guilt and empathy will be explored in light of the fact that empathy training is a significant feature of most sex offender treatment programmes. There is a dearth of research about shame in sex offenders, and its relationship to guilt and empathy in this population, although there is much speculation and some evidence that shame is prevalent within this population. If high levels of shame hinder the experience of empathy, then for those sex offenders who may be unable to, or have great difficulty experiencing empathy due to excessive shame, empathy training as part of their treatment might render them a greater risk. Such training might have the effect of teaching individuals who lack empathy to some degree skills in acting empathically, but may not necessarily enhance the genuine experience of it. Thus, teaching empathy to some sex offenders may have the effect of improving their grooming skills as being able to feign empathy might be useful when it comes to securing victims. Attribution theory is outlined and considered in terms of the treatment of sex offenders, and the view that guilt but not shame should be encouraged when working clinically with sex offenders will be explicated against the backdrop of what is currently known about shame and guilt, and their effects on empathy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available