Aversion to Risk and Guilt

Mancini, F. e Gangemi, A. (2004). Aversion to Risk and Guilt. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 11, 199-206.



Much research has shown that cognitive processes are largely guided by individuals’states of mind (Mancini & Gangemi, submitted paper; Smeets, de Jong, & Mayer, 2000). In this paper, we specifically consider a state of mind characterized by guilt for having acted irresponsibly. This state is currently considered the breeding ground for the obsessive–compulsive disorder (Rachman, 2002; Salkovskis & Forrester, 2002).

Our aim is to examine the impact of this state of mind on decision under risk. We hypothesize that individuals’choices (risk seeking/risk aversion) depend on how they evaluate themselves, as guilty or as victims of a wrong, and thus on moral values. People who evaluate them-selves as guilty are expected to show a risk-averse preference. People who evaluate themselves as victims are expected to show a risk-seeking preference. In two different experiments, we demonstrated that non-clinical participants’ aversion to risky choices and preference for risky choices vary as a function of their moral role (guilty/victim). As predicted, in both the experiments, participants experienced intolerance for risk, making more riskless choices, in the context of guilt. Thus, aversion to risk-taking is actually affected by a mental state of guilt.



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