The effects of shame on subsequent reactions to a trauma analog


The current study examined the effects of experimentally-induced shame on subsequent reactions to a trauma analog. Participants were 88 college-aged women randomly assigned to a shame prime condition or to a control (neutral) condition. Participants then were presented with an analog trauma audiotape depicting dating violence. Participants reported intrusive thoughts relating to the trauma analog in the two days following the procedure. Negative (shame, guilt) and positive (pride, positive affect) emotions were monitored throughout the procedure. Results indicated that the shame prime successfully increased shame in the Shame condition alone. After the trauma analog, increases in shame were noted in both conditions. In contrast, guilt reduced in the Shame condition, while this emotion increased in the Control condition, contrary to hypothesis. Shame and guilt were somewhat volatile for participants in the Shame condition in the two days following the lab procedure, while individuals in the Control condition reported steadily decreasing levels of these emotions. No between-condition differences were noted in the frequency of intrusions in the two days following the laboratory procedure, contrary to hypothesis. Results are discussed in light of our current understanding of shame and its role in PTSD, with suggestions to guide future research.

Publication Title

Journal of Anxiety Disorders