Affective dimensions of intergroup humiliation

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e46375. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046375. Epub 2012 Sep 28.


Despite the wealth of theoretical claims about the emotion of humiliation and its effect on human relations, there has been a lack of empirical research investigating what it means to experience humiliation. We studied the affective characteristics of humiliation, comparing the emotional experience of intergroup humiliation to two other emotions humiliation is often confused with: anger and shame. The defining characteristics of humiliation were low levels of guilt and high levels of other-directed outrage (like anger and unlike shame), and high levels of powerlessness (like shame and unlike anger). Reasons for the similarities and differences of humiliation with anger and shame are discussed in terms of perceptions of undeserved treatment and injustice. Implications for understanding the behavioral consequences of humiliation and future work investigating the role of humiliation in social life are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Anger / physiology
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Guilt
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Shame
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

Research reported here as well as the writing of this paper was supported by a Fellowship for Young Scientists of the Gottlieb Daimler- und Karl Benz-Foundation (02-15/06), to Bernhard Leidner, and by grants from the Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund, the National Science Foundation (BCS-827313) and the Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (AOR-MURI W911NF-08-1-0301) to Jeremy Ginges. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.