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In this article we examine the role of appeasement in human emotion, social practice, and personality. We first present an analysis of human appeasement. Appeasement begins when the conditions of social relations lead one individual to anticipate aggression from others, is expressed in submissive, inhibited behavior, which in turn evokes inferences and emotions in others that bring about social reconciliation. Our empirical review focuses on two classes of human appeasement: reactive forms of appeasement, including embarrassment and shame, which placate others after social transgressions; and anticipatory forms of appeasement, including polite modesty and shyness, which reduce the likelihood of social conflict and aggression. Our review of the empirical evidence indicates that embarrassment, shame, modesty, and shyness share the eliciting conditions, submissive behavior, and social consequences of appeasement. We conclude by discussing social processes that allow humans to appease one another, such as teasing, and those that prevent appeasement, such as legal and negotiation practices, to the benefit and detriment of human relations. Aggr. Behav. 23:359–374, 1997. © 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
In our database of 331 parental narratives of tantrums had by children 18–60 months old, 29% of the tantrums were followed by child-initiated affiliation with parents. Four variables increased the probability of children's post tantrum affiliation (PTA): age, prolonged screaming, physiological stress, and parent-initiated separation from the child during the tantrum. The age effect may be due to increasing post tantrum persistence of negative affect, to the emergence of shame, guilt, and embarrassment over this developmental period, and/or to increasing cognitive ability, empathic capacity, or socialization. Screaming, which may be analogous to the defensive vocalizations of nonhuman primates, increases PTA when prolonged for 6 min or more. Physiological stress (indicated by autonomic activation or respiratory distress) appears linked to prolonged screaming and may mediate its effects by increasing the child's dysphoria and need for consolation. Separation (parents' departure from the scene of the tantrum or their imposition of a time out) also appears linked to prolonged screaming and may reflect parents' response to an aversive auditory stimulus. There was no evidence that PTA was associated with the presence or degree of physically expressed anger in the tantrum. PTA may be associated with distress during the tantrum. The post conflict reconciliation which occurs in several domains of human social life may be first experienced by children in the aftermath of their tantrums. Aggr. Behav. 23:329–341, 1997. © 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.