Hearing between the lines: A pragmatic investigation of guilt

Manchester Metropolitan University


Title: Hearing between the lines: A pragmatic investigation of guilt.

Researcher:  Leila Abid

Study level: PhD

Institute: Manchester Metropolitan University

Location(s): Dubai, UAE

Ethical approval number (EthOS):    25647  


Download this Participant Information Sheet as a .pdf document

Download the Consent Form as a .pdf document

Download the Withdrawal Form as a .pdf document




Participant Information Sheet

1. Invitation to research

My name is Leila Abid. I am a student at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, and I live in Luxembourg, Europe. You are hereby invited to take part in a research study that I am conducting for the fulfilment of my doctoral thesis. Before you decide whether to participate in this study, it is important that you understand why the research is being done and what it will involve. Please read the following information carefully and feel free to ask me any questions you might have.

This study aims to find out whether it is possible to hear or see when a person feels guilty. During a previous research on this topic, I discovered that guilt appears when people feel bad because they:

  • intend to do something that they consider either morally, socially or personally wrong;
  • have done something they consider wrong and now regret;
  • just believe they have done something that they consider wrong.

I also discovered that earlier attempts to describe how this emotion is observed (heard or seen) in a person have not resulted in any tangible, descriptive markers (signs) to recognise it systematically. This is why I would like to interview people to ask them about a personal experience where they felt guilt and then to analyse their words as well as their behaviour. This study’s aim is neither to judge nor to criticise anybody about the act for which they feel guilt. Rather, it is about noticing what participants say and do when the feeling of guilt is generated.

The global aim of this study is to allow counsellors and coaches to work in a more targeted and efficient way with their patients/clients.


2. Why have I been invited?

I want to interview a total of 50 people from 5 different countries in the world to see what indicators of guilt they display and where these indicators are shared across the different countries (and thus can be argued to be universal). The five countries I am investigating are Mongolia, Colombia, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Luxembourg. I would like to interview you as a representative of the United Arab Emirates.


3. Do I have to take part?

It is up to you to decide. I will describe the study and go through this information sheet, which I will give to you. I will then ask you to sign a consent form to show you agreed to take part. You are free to withdraw at any time, without giving a reason.


4. What will I be asked to do?

You will be interviewed on the subject of feeling guilty. The entire project will last around 6 years and your participation will be required for approximately 1-2 hours. The study aims to discover verbal and non-verbal signs of guilt so that the guilt emotion can be more readily distinguished from other emotions. The entire interview will be videotaped on an HD video recorder. This is to help me better observe (and not have to rely upon memory when analysing later):

  • what words participants use to describe their guilt experience;
  • how they use those words (their vocal tone/quality, use of pauses, silence, etc.);
  • what signs they show on their face and/or in their body language.

It also means that I can give you my undivided attention during the interview. As noted under Point 1, you will not be judged for the act itself, but your verbal and non-verbal behaviour will be analysed to find common signs of this emotion. Nonetheless, please do not choose a criminal act which could have legal repercussions or ramifications and will lead into a different direction than the one I am anticipating.

Participation is completely voluntary, and you will have a number of opportunities to ask as many questions as you wish and to change your mind, as is seen in the consent process below.


The consent process:

The consent process consists of 2 stages:

Stage 1. Preselection:

  • The details of the study will be communicated to you by the gatekeepers. The project will be presented using this participant information sheet, following which you will be invited to indicate your interest verbally. This verbal interest will ensure that travel to the United Arab Emirates is worthwhile, thereby triggering stage 2.

Stage 2: Review of the PIS and securing participant consent

  • At some point following pre-selection (between 2 weeks and several months after stage 1, depending on the country), I will meet with you to go over the written information sheet and I will answer all of the questions you might have regarding the study. If you still wish to take part in the study, we will go over the consent form (here attached). You will be invited to sign this consent form before we will proceed with the interview.

At any of the stages during the data collection:

  • you will have ample opportunity to ask questions and, if necessary, to withdraw from the study;
  • if you decide not to continue with the project, you will be asked to sign a withdrawal form and will be removed from the study without needing to give a reason.

The interview

The interview itself will be set up in a small quiet room/space so that we are not disturbed by outside noise and you can feel free to talk without interruption. The room will be equipped with a table and 3 to 4 chairs (for you, me and, if necessary, the interpreter and/or counsellor). You will be asked to describe an event where you felt guilty about doing something that you consider morally, socially or just personally wrong. This act could be about something you did, want(ed) to do, or just think/thought you did wrong. Again, please do not choose an act with legal ramifications (criminal act), as this will lead to a different direction than the one I am anticipating. This has nothing to do with thinking or feeling that you are/were a bad person by doing this. It is just the realisation that the act –or lack of action– has led you to feel bad (that is, guilty). You will be able to recount the experience in as much detail as you would like, without interruption, but after which, I might ask some follow-up questions for clarification. Again, and as noted above, these questions will not be to judge you but to understand what your feelings are/were during the event. They will also help me explore whether there are commonalities between all the participants’ answers, thereby allowing me to create a list of potential indicators of guilt.

All interviews will be video/audio recorded, in order to enable detailed analysis of the different communication channels. The videos will be transcribed verbatim (that is, every word spoken, as well as other verbal indicators such as laughter tokens, sighs, pauses, etc.), and the transcriptions translated (where applicable) by third parties.


5. Are there any risks if I participate?

Due to the sensitive nature of the topic of the interview, it is possible that going through such an experience might bring up distressing feelings that you thought were buried, be they in relation to this particular experience or another completely unrelated experience. This is why, at the end of the interview, I will ask you how you felt during the interview. As well as helping me to verify how you felt and are feeling, it will also help me to understand whether, before leaving, you need/would like to talk to someone about what you experienced. I want to make sure you are taken care of emotionally and psychologically, if and when you need to be. My priority is, therefore, that everybody, but especially those more affected, has a person of contact to talk to about the experience if they feel the need for this. I am therefore working with [insert name and title of counsellor] who will act as a counsellor. This person is there for you if you need emotional support.


6. Are there any advantages if I participate?

Whilst there are no direct advantages for you, I would like to hope that this work can help you better cope with your guilt situation. I would also hope that this work has a beneficial impact on the counselling/coaching fields, so that these professionals can work with their patients/clients in a more targeted and efficient way. The results of this study will gladly be shared with you if you like to see them.


7. What will happen with the data I provide?

When you agree to participate in this research, I will collect from you personally identifiable information. The Manchester Metropolitan University (‘the University’) is the Data Controller in respect of this research and any personal data that you provide as a research participant. The University is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and manages personal data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the University’s Data Protection Policy. We collect personal data as part of this research (such as name, telephone numbers or age). As a public authority acting in the public interest we rely upon the ‘public task’ lawful basis. When we collect special category data (such as medical information or ethnicity) we rely upon the research and archiving purposes in the public interest lawful basis. Your rights to access, change or move your information are limited, as we need to manage your information in specific ways in order for the research to be reliable and accurate. If you withdraw from the study, we will keep the information about you that we have already obtained.

I will share your personal data with interpreters and transcribers (if applicable) [insert name of transcribers and translators] in order to fulfil the purposes set out above. If your data is shared this will be under the terms of a Research Collaboration Agreement which defines use, and agrees confidentiality and information security provisions. It is the University’s policy to only publish anonymised data unless you have given your explicit written consent to be identified in the research. The University never sells personal data to third parties.

I will only retain your personal data for as long as is necessary to achieve the research purpose. Your personal data will not be used during the analysis. It will be anonymised with no recognisable markers that can link back to you. You will be asked to give a pseudonym, by which you would like to be called during the interview and you will be assigned a


  • a country code (e.g., C=United Arab Emirates),
  • a number code (1-10),
  • a gender code (M/F) and
  • an age-range code (1=18-24; 2=25-34; 3=35-44; 4=45-64; 5=65+).

For example, code C1F3 would represent the first person (1) from the United Arab Emirates (C) to be interviewed who is a female (F) and aged between 35 and 44 years (3). This code will be used on all documents relating to you from that point on.

Besides myself, access will be granted to authorised representatives from the University to permit study-related monitoring, audits and inspections. The data will also be shared with third parties as follows:

  • The transcribers (if applicable) will have access to your video, as they have to transcribe all verbal and non-verbal behaviours at the time they occur. This means that they will hear the pseudonym that you gave and see your face.
  • The translators (if applicable) will receive the transcribed and coded copy to work with.

Consequently, the only personal data that will be used relates to

  • your face on the video, which cannot be hidden as transcribers (if applicable) need to transcribe verbatim.
  • demographic data (age-range, gender, where they are from), which will be used for statistical purposes only if it proves to show something significant.

A special confidentiality agreement / service contract has been established with the transcribers and translators.

Furthermore, all data will be physically locked in a cabinet and/or digitally saved on a password-protected computer, and the university cloud, which is only accessible by myself. Additionally, your personal data will be kept in another locked cabinet at my home, again, only accessible by myself.

For further information about use of your personal data and your data protection rights please see the University’s Data Protection Pages (https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/data-protection/).   



What will happen to the results of the research study?

The results will be used for the purpose of my doctoral degree dissertation in Linguistics. I anticipate that the results will be disseminated in a variety of formats (i.e. in conference papers and peer-reviewed journals). The research findings will, however, be presented in terms of groups of individuals, in such a way as to make it impossible to distinguish your data from one of the other participants. If any of your data is presented at a conference or in a journal, it will remain anonymous, with no means of identifying you.


Who has reviewed this research project?

This research project has been reviewed and was approved by the Academic Ethics Committee of Manchester Metropolitan University on 10 February 2021. Other people having access to this project are my Principal Supervisor, my supervisors, and some of my academic peers working in similar research areas.


Who do I contact if I have concerns about this study or I wish to complain?

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me directly via my email address: leila.abid@stu.mmu.ac.uk.

If you have any concerns about me, or anything else that you do not wish to discuss with me, my Principal Supervisor, Professor Dawn Archer, can be contacted using the d.archer@mmu.ac.uk email or by calling: +44 161 247 3887, or in writing to: Professor Dawn Archer, Research and Knowledge Exchange Coordinator for Languages, Information and Communications, 448 Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, M15 6LL.

If you have any concerns that you have been put in harm’s way through this study, our Faculty Research Ethical Officer can be contacted using the artsandhumanitiesethics@mmu.ac.uk e-mail address, by calling +44 161 247 1973 or in writing to: Ethical Officer, Arts and Humanities, All Saints Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, M15 6BH.

If you have any concerns regarding the personal data collected from you, our Data Protection Officer can be contacted using the legal@mmu.ac.uk e-mail address, by calling +44 161 247 3331 or in writing to: Data Protection Officer, Legal Services, All Saints Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, M15 6BH. You also have a right to lodge a complaint in respect of the processing of your personal data with the Information Commissioner’s Office as the supervisory authority. Please see: https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/







Please note: By applying, you will be added to an email database because you have registered to participate in the study, "Hearing between the lines: A pragmatic investigation of guilt." Purposeful Innovators CIC is assisting this study through registration services only and does not have access to any data collected or used by the researcher in the study itself. Your data will be used for the sole purpose or facilitating the research interviews. You can unsubscribe at anytime but you will no longer receive information regarding the study nor the interview details like date and location. Your data will be deleted once the interviews have taken place and you will be given the option to join a separate list should you wish to participate in future research. The Manchester Metropolitan University (‘the University’) is the Data Controller in respect of the actual research and any personal data that you provide as a research participant. 

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