The paradox of humiliation: The acceptance of an unjust devaluation of the self

Saulo Fernández, Tamar Saguy, Eran Halperin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Despite growing attention the study of humiliation is receiving, there is little consensus as to how humiliation differs from other related emotions. We here argue that humiliation shares central characteristics with anger, shame, and embarrassment, but also differs from these emotions in meaningful ways. In Study 1, participants read about a professor who demeaned a student’s work. We manipulated key appraisals of this scenario and measured humiliation, shame, anger, and embarrassment, as well as the tendencies for approach and avoidance. Results indicated that humiliation arises from accepting a devaluation of the self, which, simultaneously, is appraised as unjust. Moreover, humiliation is associated with tendencies for approach and avoidance simultaneously. We replicated these results in Study 2 in which participants referred to actual experiences in their lives during which they felt humiliated, ashamed, or angry. Taken together, results provide evidence of the unique nature of humiliation as a distinct, self-conscious emotion.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)976-988
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.


  • Anger
  • Appraisals
  • Embarrassment
  • Humiliation
  • Shame


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