A new study found that worriers who begin to chastise themselves at the mere thought of doing something wrong are less likely to behave immorally as a result of their unwavable conscience.
In contrast some 30 to 40 per cent of people fit the opposite category and give very little forethought to how their actions will make them feel – a recipe for unethical behaviour, psychologists say.
Women are more likely to feel pre-emptive guilt than men, and older people tend to anticipate feelings of shame and regret better than those who are younger and less experienced in life.
Writing in the Current Directions in Psychological Science journal, experts explained the difference between guilt – the feeling of remorse when you have done something wrong – and “guilt proneness”, where you anticipate feeling ashamed before you have actually done any wrong.
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