The Role of Witnesses in Humiliation: Why Does the Presence of an Audience Facilitate Humiliation Among Victims of Devaluation?

Saulo Fernández*, Tamar Saguy, Elena Gaviria, Rut Agudo, Eran Halperin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


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).

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)32-47
Number of pages16
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
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.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.


  • emotion
  • humiliation
  • self-concept
  • shame
  • witnesses


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