As a former Catholic and devoted mom, I work to encourage my adult children to feel guilty at every turn. So I was delighted to see this item today at the Wall Street Journal, asserting that people who are guilt-prone are actually pretty awesome.
The researchers find that 30% to 40% of adults are highly guilt-prone, and these tend to be nice folks. Guilt-proneness correlates to all kinds of positive traits, including sincerity, fairness, modesty, agreeableness and conscientiousness. “Compared to individuals with low guilt-proneness scores,” the researchers write, “those with high scores are more likely to be sympathetic, take the perspective of others, consider the future consequences of their behavior, and value having moral traits. ”
The guilt prone are also more likely to be female and older. And they’re less likely to make unethical business decisions, lie for money, negotiate dishonestly, behave badly at work, or commit crime. Not surprisingly, the researchers suggest looking for guilt-proneness when choosing friends, lovers and employees.
How guilt-prone are you? Take the GASP test (Guilt and Shame Proneness Scale) to find out. (I will confess, I can’t figure out how to analyze my results from this little quiz, and yes, I do feel guilty about that.)