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Collective Guilt

Guilt is an unpleasant emotional reaction that occurs with the perception of having committed some type of moral violation. Historically, psychological research on guilt has focused on the feelings of guilt that arise when people feel personally responsible for causing illegitimate harm to others. Recent research has revealed that people can have similar feelings of guilt when their group is perceived to be responsible for illegitimately harming members of another group. This collective guilt results from sharing a social identity with others whose actions represent a threat to the positivity of that identity. Thus even though others were responsible for the harm or moral violation, and the individual is not directly implicated in the harm-doing, the individual can still have feelings of collective guilt.

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