Avery Machuk, a new member this semester, presented a research article to the members of the FF-PTG lab. The article titled “The Protective Effect of Agency on Victims of Humiliation” investigated if agency and emotions can influence the effects humiliation can have on an individual after an embarrassing experience.
In order to understand this topic we have to define some terms. Agency in this case is the ability of an individual to actively respond back to an individual. If someone is the cause of the humiliation one is feeling, and the person can confront them about it afterward, this would be considered a high agency. Being able to confront the person who humiliated you in this way may decrease feelings of internalization; when an individual takes what someone says and begins to think that way about themselves as well. Previous research also observed agency having connections with self-esteem; an important factor in how one might respond to humiliation. The researchers hypothesized that if victims of humiliation could respond to the perpetrator of the humiliation in an agentic way then the negative emotional effects associated with the humiliation would be diminished. They also tested whether the hostility of the humiliation would affect the emotions felt, such as anger and shame, and the internalization of the humiliation.
They tested this hypothesis through a series of experiments. The first experiment asked individuals to self-report their feelings based on a humiliating scenario they were asked to think about as if they had experienced it. They were then divided among those who did or did not confront the perpetrator of the humiliating scenario and recorded what their responses would be. In the second and third experiments, the participants were put into potentially humiliating scenarios. The participant answered questions to the best of their ability and the researcher, regardless of correct their answer was, told them they were wrong. This response from the researcher could either be hostile or non-hostile. In experiment two the participants could not respond (non-agentic) while in the third the participants could (agentic). The results showed significantly lower feelings of shame, humiliation, and internalization in the agency condition compared to the non-agentic condition. Experiments 2 and 3 showed mixed results with internalization and humiliation both being lower in the agentic condition, but not shame.
The results showed that agency can have some effects in alleviating the negative emotional effects of humiliation. The hypotheses were supported to varying degrees. Several limitations exist in this experiment, including the first experiment being solely based on self-reports. The experiments were conducted in a lab setting which could have influenced the participants responses. Lastly, the sample was all from the same university so the results should be replicated with different populations to further consolidate the findings. This research can have a positive impact on the world. These application include anti-bullying programs which would encourage standing up against to a bully in a productive way. Research on the subject of humiliation can also decrease the negative feelings experienced by those who experience discrimination. Working to reduce the negative impact a situation can have and empowering those by encouraging responding in a productive way may help as this research demonstrates.
Thank you for sharing your research interests with us Avery, and we are excited to see how this shapes your future projects!