Guilt Shame and Empathy

Empathy, morality and guilt are abstract concepts that demand a certain level of cognitive development. Only once a series of cognitive developmental stages are achieved can an individual take on the perspective of others and then include this perspective in one's moral decision-making. This stage of cognitive development was described by Piaget (1932) as the Stage of Formal Operations that begins around the age of 12 years. It follows that young people with low intelligence or other cognitive deficits may have deficits in terms of their ability to experience empathy or guilt. This is then a result of their inability in taking on the perspective of others.

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