The Upside of a Red Face
Embarrass easily? You’re likely trustworthy, a study finds
By Wendy Leung, The Globe and Mail
Are you easily flustered? Does the slightest faux pas make you blush? If so, don’t hide it.
People who are easily embarrassed may also be more trustworthy, co-operative, altruistic and faithful in relationships, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.
“Moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue,” said Matthew Feinberg, lead author and doctoral student in psychology, in a press release. “Our data suggests embarrassment is a good thing, not something you should fight.” The researchers say embarrassment is “part of the social glue” that encourages trust and co-operation. They emphasize, however, that it should not be confused with debilitating social anxiety or shame associated with moral transgressions.
The study, published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, involved a series of experiments with small sample sizes that measured participants’ embarrassment and positive social traits.
In one experiment, the researchers videotaped 60 college students who were asked to recount awkward moments, such as mistaking an overweight woman for being pregnant, or public flatulence. The participants were then asked to play a “dictator game,” which involved allocating raffle tickets between themselves and a partner, designed to determine their generosity. Those who showed higher levels of embarrassment in the video interviews tended to be more generous.
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