Guilt enhances the sense of control and drives risky judgments

Maryam Kouchaki*, Christopher Oveis, Francesca Gino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In the present studies, we investigate the hypothesis that guilt influences risk taking by enhancing one's sense of control. Across multiple inductions of guilt, we demonstrate that experimentally induced guilt enhances optimism about risks for the self (Study 1), preferences for gambles versus guaranteed payoffs (Studies 2, 4, and 6), and the likelihood that one will engage in risk-taking behaviors (Study 5). In addition, we demonstrate that guilt enhances the sense of control over uncontrollable events, an illusory control (Studies 3, 4, and 5), and found that a model with illusory control as a mediator is consistent with the data (Studies 5 and 6). We also found that a model with feelings of guilt as a mediator but not generalized negative affect fits the data (Study 4). Finally, we examined the relative explanatory power of different appraisals and found that appraisals of illusory control best explain the influence of guilt on risk taking (Study 6). These results provide the first empirical demonstration of the influence of guilt on sense of control and risk taking, extend previous theorizing on guilt, and more generally contribute to the understanding of how specific emotions influence cognition and behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2103-2110
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014


  • Appraisal
  • Guilt
  • Illusion of control
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Guilt enhances the sense of control and drives risky judgments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this