Forget Greed, It's Guilt That's Good

People often talk trash about guilt. For example, one might say, "Oh, you know me and my Jewish guilt." Well, such people should be happy they have such a thing, for it stops them from becoming unruly maniacs....

A study at the University of Iowa examined two related emotions: self-control and guilt. Children were given an "irreplaceable" toy that was actually set to break. Once it did, the children were asked to describe their emotions, one of which was the dreaded guilt. And it's that feeling, say researchers, that helps keep the little rug rats in line:

[Researcher Grazyna Kochanska] and colleagues found that 2-year-olds who showed more chagrin during the broken-toy experiment went on to have fewer behavioral problems over the next five years.
...
"If you have high guilt," Dr. Kochanska said, "it's such a rapid response system, and the sensation is so incredibly unpleasant, that effortful control doesn't much matter."

But, in the end, self-control does matter, because it can compensate for a lack of guilt. If you have neither? Well, you're probably just a lost cause.

Image via BritneyBush's flickr