A society that does not have a capacity to shame the war crimes of its leaders without tearing itself apart as a society will perpetrate many war crimes. A society whose schools cannot shame bullying without renting the social fabric of schools, destroying the lives of bullies and victims alike, will have devastating bullying problems. That means we need schools with an institutional capacity to deal with bullying restoratively (Braithwaite 2002). A society in which crimes of rape and violence against women are not shameful will have a lot of rape and widespread violence against women.

In recent work Eliza Ahmed found that while reintegrative shaming and shame acknowledgement can contribute to the control of bullying in schools and workplaces, forgiveness can have an even larger bullying reduction effect (Ahmed and Braithwaite 2005, 2008).

Eliza Ahmed’s program of research also shows that pride management can be as important as shame management. Just as there is healthy and unhealthy shame, so there is healthy and unhealthy pride. Pride in accomplishing good things together with others nourishes us and promotes social solidarity. Pride in being better than other people is divisive when it promotes sentiments of ‘I am better than you’. This is vaunting pride or narcissistic pride. Our research shows that unhealthy pride management is highly correlated with unhealthy shame management. Both explain high rates of bullying in schools among children and in workplaces among adults. Humble pride and reintegrative shame acknowledgement, in contrast, explain lower rates of bullying.

Complementing an analysis of shame management with pride management is just one of a number of adjustments to the theory of Crime, Shame and Reintegration in our 2001 book Shame Management Through Reintegration (Ahmed, Harris, Braithwaite and Braithwaite 2001; see also Braithwaite 2002). The empirical evidence for the basic explanatory framework of Crime, Shame and Reintegration continues to be very encouraging, as it does for restorative justice as a reintegrative strategy of crime control (Braithwaite 2014).

The most recent psychological research on shame and shaming, and recent meta-analyses on the effects of shame, confirm the basic contention of Crime, Shame and Reintegration that stigmatizing shame is unhealthy for people and makes crime problems worse; reintegrative shaming that induces shame acknowledgement can help to reduce crime. For an evocative discussion of these recent changes in the thinking of psychologists Diana Kwon’s (2016) May essay in the Scientific American Mind is helpful and easy to read:

In a longitudinal study of 476 inmates, published in 2014, George Mason University clinical psychologist June Tangney and her colleagues found that among inmates who felt shame, those who did not seek to pin their wrongdoing on someone else were less likely to repeat a past offense than those who blamed a scapegoat.

In a meta-analysis of 71 shame studies published last December, Leach and Atilla Cidam, a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut, found that even when shame tarnishes a person’s social image, it can prompt constructive choices, provided the individual has an opportunity to make amends. According to Leach, because shame affects our self-evaluation, it is most damaging when there is nothing the person implicated can do to change the situation. But when we believe change is possible, it can be a strong motivator for good behavior.

Here is a link to Kwon’s Scientific American Mind article.

The Leach and Cidam meta-analysis is definitely worth reading. Here is its Abstract:

Despite recent evidence that episodic shame can be linked to the constructive approach of failure (i.e. prosociality, self-improvement), the prevailing view is that shame is neither constructive nor approach-oriented. To integrate these opposing views, we conducted a theory-driven meta-analysis of 90 samples from the published literature (N=12,364). As expected, shame had a positive link to constructive approach when failure (g=.47, 95% confidence interval [CI] [.37, .55]) or social image (g=.37, 95% CI [.06, .68]) was more reparable. In contrast, shame had a negative link to constructive approach when failure was less reparable (g=-.34, 95% CI [-.53,-.14]). A supplemental meta-analysis of 42 samples showed shame and guilt to have a similar positive link to constructive approach orientation when failure was more reparable (g=.44 and .43), but not when it was less reparable (g=-.08 and .27).

You can read the full article here.


Ahmed, Eliza, Nathan Harris, John Braithwaite and Valerie Braithwaite (2001) Shame Management Through Reintegration, Melbourne, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Ahmed, Eliza and John Braithwaite (2005) ‘Forgiveness, Shaming, Shame, and Bullying’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology , 38(3), 298-323.

Ahmed, Eliza & John Braithwaite ‘Shame, Pride and Workplace Bullying’, in S. Karstedt, I. Loader and H. Strang (eds), Emotions, Crime and Justice, Oxford, Hart Publishing.

Braithwaite, John (2002) Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation, New York, Oxford University Press.

Braithwaite, John (2014) Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation: The question of evidence. SSRN RegNet Research Paper No. 2014/51

Kwon, Diana (2016) Put to Shame and Better for It: Psychologists have long seen shaming as destructive, but new science suggests we can harness it to motivate transgressors to make amends. Scientific American Mind 27, 1 May.