For psychological researchers and analysts, more information is needed on the social situations that lead to these emotions, as well as the specific social interactions that can alleviate or heighten the negative emotional experience. The aim of this research project is to gather data from males and females relating to their own experiences with guilt, shame and embarrassment and to interpret the factors involved as well as the differences between men and women.
To discover the different social situations and interactions that separate men and women in their experiences of guilt, shame and embarrassment, ten questionnaires containing three questions on the topic were distributed to five men and five women. Each question asked the informant to identify different situations in which he or she has or would experience guilt, shame and embarrassment. The questions left room for large or small descriptions by informants, and the unstructured form of each question ensured that those filling out the questionnaires weren't led in any particular direction in terms of their answers. Answers were therefore expected to be unique to every man and women who filled out the questionnaire.
To interpret this data, keywords were extracted from the questionnaires, which had been separated into two sets representing women and men. The two sets of keywords were compiled for each question and compared to one another in terms of repetition and connotation. The keywords could then be sorted into specific categories depending on their relation to social interaction, personal emotional history, family, friends, and other factors. This comparison made it possible to identify themes on the subject of guilt, shame and embarrassment that were unique to men and women, as well as those that were seemingly universal.
Qualitative research offers an unstructured look into the social interactions of people, something that psychologists can benefit from only if they can pinpoint certain factors and understand clearly what is actually going on. These questionnaires showed a clear trend between the outlook of men and women in regards to the situations that make them feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed. Where women tend to feel immediate emotional responses in situations that involve their friends and family, they also are more susceptible to emotional response to strangers and acquaintances who appear to sit in judgement of them. Men also exhibit emotional responses when the situation involves family or friends, but many men can experience feelings of embarrassment more often in social situations that involve work acquaintances or other casual peers. One man described an occasion where he would feel embarrassed as "when I screw up on the job and everyone at work knows about it".
Men were generally on par with women when it came to feelings of guilt and shame, in that these feelings tended to happen most often when family and close friends were involved. One woman said "I have felt the most ashamed when I have let my family down, either by hurting their feelings or depriving them of something I could have provided". Both men and women experienced guilt, shame and