Easily embarrassed? Study finds people will trust you more
If tripping in public or mistaking an overweight woman for a mother-to-be leaves you red-faced, don't feel bad. A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that people who are easily embarrassed are also more trustworthy, and more generous.
In short, embarrassment can be a good thing.
"Embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources. It's part of the social glue that fosters trust and cooperation in everyday life," said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a coauthor of the study published in this month's online issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Not only are the UC Berkeley findings useful for people seeking cooperative and reliable team members and business partners, but they also make for helpful dating advice. Subjects who were more easily embarrassed reported higher levels of monogamy, according to the study.
"Moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue," said Matthew Feinberg, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the paper. "Our data suggests embarrassment is a good thing, not something you should fight." The paper's third author is UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, an expert on pro-social emotions.
Researchers point out that the moderate type of embarrassment they examined should not be confused with debilitating social anxiety or with "shame," which is associated in the psychology literature with such moral transgressions as being caught cheating.
While the most typical gesture of embarrassment is a downward gaze to one side while partially covering the face and either smirking or grimacing, a person who feels shame, as distinguished from embarrassment, will typically cover the whole face, Feinberg said.
The results were gleaned from a series of experiments that used video testimonials, economic trust games and surveys to gauge the relationship between embarrassment and pro-sociality.
In the first experiment, 60 college students were videotaped recounting embarrassing moments such as public flatulence or making incorrect assumptions based on appearances. Typical sources of embarrassment included mistaking an overweight woman for being pregnant or a disheveled person for being a panhandler. Research assistants coded each video testimonial based on the level of embarrassment the subjects showed.
The college students also participated in the "Dictator Game," which is used in economics research to measure altruism. For example, each was given 10 raffle tickets and asked to keep a share of the tickets and give the remainder to a partner. Results showed that those who showed greater levels of embarrassment tended to give away more of their raffle tickets, indicating greater generosity.
Researchers also surveyed 38 Americans whom they recruited through Craigslist. Survey participants were asked how often they feel embarrassed. They were also gauged for their general cooperativeness and generosity through such exercises as the aforementioned dictator game.
In another experiment, participants watched a trained actor being told he received a perfect score on a test. The actor responded with either embarrassment or pride. They then played games with the actor that measured their trust in him based on whether he had shown pride or embarrassment.
Time and again, the results showed that embarrassment signals people's tendency to be pro-social, Feinberg said. "You want to affiliate with them more," he said, "you feel comfortable trusting them."
So, can one infer from the results that overly confident people aren't trustworthy? While the study didn't delve into that question, researchers say they may look into that in the future.
Provided by University of California - Berkeley
- It's enough to make you blush Aug 07, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Neurological basis for embarrassment described Apr 15, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Your flaws are my pain Apr 13, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- More clues to midlife dementia that erases personality Apr 16, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Study: People sometimes less trusting when in a good mood Mar 02, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Why is zone 1 in liver more prone to ischemic injury?
14 hours ago Hi, Is it because around central vein, there is only deoxygenated blood from the vein where as in the periphery there is hepatic artery. Also why...
How can there be villous adenoma in colon, if there are no villi there
May 22, 2013 As title suggest. Thanks :smile:
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
May 21, 2013 Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
A brief visual task can predict IQ, according to a new study. This surprisingly simple exercise measures the brain's unconscious ability to filter out visual movement. The study shows that individuals whose ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 6 hours ago | 4.8 / 5 (6) | 0 |
Nervous about that upcoming job interview? You might want to take steps to reduce your jitters, especially if you are a man.
Psychology & Psychiatry 7 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Research by U of T Mississauga psychology professor Glenn Schellenberg reveals that two key personality traits – openness-to-experience and conscientiousness—predict better than IQ ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 9 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Parents naturally are concerned for their children's safety, particularly when there is news of a child abduction that happens close to home. Finding the balance between emotions and the "teachable moment" as parents talk ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 9 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A new report on suicide in Ireland shows that suicide cases experienced a significant number (and intensity) of life events in the 6 months prior to their death.
Psychology & Psychiatry 9 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Regulating the distribution of power in neurons is done by a system that makes the national electric grid look simple by comparison. Each neuron has several thousand mitochondria confined ...
48 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Two out of five medical students have an unconscious bias against obese people, according to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The study is published online ahead of print in the Journal of ...
22 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
International efforts to combat a new pneumonia-like virus that has now killed 22 people are being slowed by unclear rules and competition for the potentially profitable rights to disease samples, the head ...
23 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Breast cancer characterized as "triple negative" carries a poor prognosis, with limited treatment options. In some cases, chemotherapy doesn't kill the cancer cells the way it's supposed to. New research from Western University ...
59 minutes ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
Mayo Clinic researchers have used next generation genomic analysis to determine that some of the more aggressive prostate cancer tumors have similar genetic origins, which may help in predicting cancer progression. The findings ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—A shortage of a critical tuberculosis drug has hampered the efforts of health departments across the United States to contain the spread of the highly infectious lung disease, federal officials ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0