The regulatory function of self-conscious emotion: insights from patients with orbitofrontal damage

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Oct;85(4):594-604. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.4.594.


Although once considered disruptive, self-conscious emotions are now theorized to be fundamentally involved in the regulation of social behavior. The present study examined the social regulation function of self-conscious emotions by comparing healthy participants with a neuropsychological population--patients with orbitofrontal lesions--characterized by selective regulatory deficits. Orbitofrontal patients and healthy controls participated in a series of tasks designed to assess their social regulation and self-conscious emotions. Another task assessed the ability to infer others' emotional states, an appraisal process involved in self-conscious emotion. Consistent with the theory that self-conscious emotions are important for regulating social behavior, the findings show that deficient behavioral regulation is associated with inappropriate self-conscious emotions that reinforce maladaptive behavior. Additionally, deficient behavioral regulation is associated with impairments in interpreting the self-conscious emotions of others.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Frontal Lobe / injuries*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orbit / injuries*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / injuries*
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Disclosure
  • Social Behavior
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology