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Recent publications

You observe a colleague at your new job express shame about something they did at work. While past research on shame has focused on how this colleague’s feelings of shame affect them, the present work focused on how these feelings affect you. We found the following. People rely on others’ shame, more so than other emotions, to infer how they should or should not behave in a social context. Moreover, after observing someone else feel ashamed, people subsequently conform more to social norms, even when this conformity costs them financially. These findings provide foundational evidence that one person’s shame affects others’ normative behavior. They also establish social learning as a key mechanism through which shame facilitates social cohesion. Finally, these findings suggest that conclusions about the effects of shame or shamelessness in society requires identifying how shame affects all relevant social actors, not just the person who experiences shame directly.


Schaumberg, R. L., & Skowronek, S. E. (2022). Shame Broadcasts Social Norms: The Positive Social Effects of Shame on Norm Acquisition and Normative Behavior. Psychological Science, 09567976221075303.

Shame broadcasts social norms

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Current Projects

Current projects

Here are some of the ideas Becky is currently exploring in her research. Have thoughts? Similar projects? These ongoing projects benefit  from others' insights, so please reach out with any feedback.

The integrity of not forgiving

Imagine two colleagues working on a marketing pitch to try to land a new client. Colleague A works very hard and comes up with a very innovative idea. Colleague B steals this idea and pitches it as their own, getting credit for landing the new client. Colleague A might forgive or not forgive Colleague B for stealing the idea. Do we see Colleague A as more principled and higher in integrity when they do not forgive the idea theft than when they do? When might this be the case and why?  

Nothing to proud of? 

Imagine two students. They both take a chemistry exam and earn a 90%. One student is proud of this score and the other is not. Which student is better at chemistry?

This work finds that, on average, people view someone who expresses pride in a performance as having less domain-specific competence and status than someone who doesn't express pride in the same performance. 

How a sense of shame faciliates performance 

Some people have a strong sense of shame. They anticipate feeling incompetent if they make a mistake on a project or irresponsible for forgetting a meeting. Others have a weaker sense of shame and would not feel bad about themselves for these misdeeds. Is having a stronger sense of shame (being more shame-prone) related positively to job performance?

This work finds that it is. In a field survey of contingent workers and a preregistered, incentivized real-effort task, shame proneness related positively to job performance. 

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