We examined the role that witnesses play in triggering humiliation. We hypothesized that witnesses trigger humiliation because they intensify the two core appraisals underlying humiliation: unfairness and internalization of a devaluation of the self. However, we further propose that witnesses are not a defining characteristic of humiliating situations. Results of a preliminary study using an event-recall method confirmed that witnesses were as characteristic of humiliating episodes as of those that elicited shame or anger. In Experiments 1 and 2, we manipulated the presence (vs. absence) of witnesses when a professor devalued participants and the hostile tone of this devaluation. As hypothesized, in both experiments, witnesses indirectly increased humiliation via the appraisal of unfairness. Results of Experiment 2 revealed that the presence of witnesses also interacted with hostility, enhancing humiliation. As expected, this moderating effect occurred via the other key appraisal of humiliation (i.e., internalization).
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The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research and the preparation of this article were supported by the Research Fund Grant PID2019-108478GB-I00 from the Spanish State Agency for Research—Ministry of Science and Innovation.
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