An emotional state produced by thoughts that we have not lived up to our ideal self and could have done otherwise.

Guilt is both a cognitive and an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes that he or she has violated a moral standard and is responsible for that violation. A guilty conscience results from thoughts that we have not lived up to our ideal self. Guilt feelings may also inhibit us from falling short of our ideal again in the future. Individual guilt is an inner reflection on personal wrongdoing, while collective guilt is a shared state resulting from group—such as corporate, national, or community—wrongdoing.


The researcher M. L. Hoffman has proposed the following stages of guilt development:

Infancy—Because infants have no clear...

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