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When knowing just isn't enough: Examining of the role of moral emotions in health decision making using the Theory of Planned Behavior

Kate M Duangdao, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


A proposed integrated Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) model aimed to examine the role of moral emotions and two health outcomes: prosocial behaviors and smoking outcomes. Based on Tangney's work with shame and guilt-proneness, it was expected that those more prone to guilt would engage in more prosocial behaviors and those more prone to shame would engage in more smoking behaviors. Prosocial behaviors were found to be negatively associated with smoking outcomes. However, results suggested that guilt and shame-proneness seem to function similarly in predicting behavioral outcomes. Components within the TPB were generally positively correlated with each health outcome, however findings indicated that only parts of the TPB predicted certain health behaviors. For example, when examined with moral emotions, the TPB was associated with public and anonymous behaviors for specific gender groups. In contrast, when parts of the TPB were examined without moral emotions in a mediation analysis, intention was associated with smoking outcomes. It could be speculated that engaging in prosocial behaviors may require both cognitive and emotional evaluations of the behavior rather than acting on a need to fulfill an addiction as with smoking. Thus, the integrated model may better predict prosocial behaviors. Furthermore, the TPB failed to mediate between moral emotions and health behaviors. Rather, intentions emerged as the mediating variable between guilt-proneness and smoking indices such that higher levels guilt-proneness was associated with fewer intentions to engage in smoking. Shame- proneness was not associated with smoking outcomes as expected. Future experimental and longitudinal studies are needed to examine the role of guilt and shame-proneness taking into account cultural differences and age.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Duangdao, Kate M, "When knowing just isn't enough: Examining of the role of moral emotions in health decision making using the Theory of Planned Behavior" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3466474.