Emotion plays a critical role in the deception process. Researchers have examined outcomes associated with the target of deception--such as increased suspicion, uncertainty, negative affect, and diminished trust and relational satisfaction (e.g., Aune, Metts, & Hubbard, 1998; Cole, 2001; Jang, Smith, & Levine, 2002; Levine, McCornack, & Avery, 1992; McCornack & Levine, 1990). However, little empirical attention has been paid to the emotional consequences for those who engage in deception. Indeed, McCornack and Levine (1990) argue that "Perhaps no other factor relevant to relational communication is as significant and neglected as emotion" (p. 120). This is surprising in light of Buller and Burgoon's (1998) observation that "emotional processes are incorporated in every explanation of deceptive communication" (p. 381). To be sure, both classic and contemporary theories, ranging from Ekman and Friesen's (1969) seminal work on behavioral "leakage" during deception to Burgoon and Buller's (2004) more recent work on Interpersonal Deception Theory, suggest that emotion is a key component within deceptive interactions.
Ekman (2001) argued that several emotions are intertwined with deceit, including fear, "duping delight," guilt, and shame. The latter two, he argued, although distinct, are related. For example, whereas fear is derived from the possible consequences of being caught, shame and guilt result from transgressions of one's internalized moral standards. Based on this similarity, it makes sense to examine these emotions together, as Ekman did and as we do in this study. In addition, Ekman (2001) supposed that several variables should influence the extent to which deception is perceived to be a transgression that leads to the experience of shame and guilt. For example, he speculated that selfishly motivated lies would lead to more guilt and shame than would altruistically motivated lies, and that lies told to personal acquaintances would lead to more guilt than would lies to strangers. In addition, research shows that individuals' sex (Levine, McCornack, & Avery, 1992) and cultural background (Seiter, Bruschke, & Bai, 2002) affect their perceptions of the acceptability of deception, suggesting that these variables may also mediate guilt and shame during deception. Given these relationships and the notable lack of research in this area, this study investigates how communicators' motivations, relationship with the target, sex, and culture (United States vs. China) affect expected feelings of guilt and shame following imagined acts of deception.
Review of Literature
Guilt and Shame
Although guilt and shame share commonalities, the dominant view is that these two emotions involve distinct phenomenological experiences (e.g., Tangney, 1992). Whereas earlier conceptualizations viewed guilt as an internal reaction to some transgression and shame as the result of public exposure of impropriety, in a revised perspective Lewis (1971) suggested that an actual audience is not necessary for experiencing shame. Instead, "In guilt, the self is the source of evaluation, and some specific behavior is the object of that evaluation. In shame, the self is split into a focal object and an observing 'other.' Thus, the self is both the source and the object of evaluation, as one imagines how one would look to the other" (Tangney, 1992, pp. 199-200).
Although theories have focused on situational factors that distinguish guilt and shame (e.g., Benedict, 1946), ironically there has been little systematic study of how the concepts relate to deception (Tangney, 1992). In two studies, DePaulo and colleagues (DePaulo & Kashy, 1998; DePaulo, Kashy, Kirkendol, Wyer, & Epstein, 1996) asked participants to rate their feelings about telling lies on a scale labeled "very comfortable" to "very uncomfortable." In both studies participants reported negative feelings, particularly when lying in close relationships. Similarly, in three other studies, participants reported feelings of guilt associated with imagined or actual deception (Gozna, Vrij, & Bull, 2001; Hample, 1980; Peterson, 1996). In general participants noted that guilt was likely, though in some cases emotions depended on other factors (e.g., personality characteristics of the deceiver). Finally, we found only one study (Tangney, 1992) that examined both guilt and shame as they related to deception. Participants were asked to report three situations in which they were likely to feel shame and three in which they were likely to feel guilt. Results indicated that while lying was likely to induce both emotions, it was more likely to induce guilt than shame, perhaps because guilt is more typically induced by transgressions that harm others.
Despite their contributions, these studies are limited in important ways. First, the scales in the DePaulo studies assessed participants' "feelings" rather than focusing on specific emotions. As such, it is hard to know which emotions participants might have been referring to (e.g., fear, guilt, and so forth). Second, Gozna et al. (2001), Hample (1980), and Peterson (1996) focused on guilt but not shame. Because guilt and shame may be associated with different nonverbal cues (see Ekman, 2001), it would be valuable to know the degree to which one or the other emotion is associated with the enactment of deception. Finally, although Tangney (1992) examined both guilt and shame, the study focused on a large number of transgressions, including deception, that might lead to guilt and shame. The present study, in contrast, focuses exclusively on deception, thereby allowing us to examine complexities such as the various motivations one might have for lying. Given the limitations of past work, it is essential to determine:
RQI: Do individuals perceive that they would experience more guilt than shame (or shame than guilt) when engaging in deception?
We also address the complex nature of deception by examining several variables relevant to deception, including motives for deception, relationship type, differences between respondents for the United States and China, and sex differences.
Motives for Deception
A growing number of researchers (e.g., Hample, 1980; Lindskold & Waiters, 1983; Peterson, 1996; Seiter et al., 2002) have identified different motivations (e.g., to protect self, to avoid conflict, to manage impressions) for deceiving others. Although consensus has not emerged around a single typology of motives, there seem to be at least two basic components common to most: whether the deceptive message is directed at the communicator or the other and whether the deceptive message is told for altruistic or malicious reasons. Deceptive messages told for altruistic reasons are perceived as more acceptable than those told for selfish or malicious reasons (Seiter et al., 2002). Because some deceptions may be perceived as more serious moral transgressions than others, people might experience more negative emotions when telling some types of deceptions than others.
Unfortunately, previous research has neglected to examine this issue. We found only one study that investigated guilt as a result of telling different types of deceptive messages (Peterson, 1996), and none that investigated shame. Moreover, the one study focused less on motivations--although it did distinguish between "white lies" and "blatant lies"--and more on styles of lying (e.g., "failed …