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 Robb Willer, a coauthor of the study published in this month's online issue of the .

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 , 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 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 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.

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hush1
1 / 5 (2) Sep 28, 2011
Matthew Feinberg.Robb Willer.
Study Psychology first before you write.
Pure Bullshit.
Trust is the absence of worry.
Downward gaze is child mode.
Readers:
Ignore.

One more reason the rest of the world doesn't understand Americans. Twisted psychic.
RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
...public flatulence...
Dog owners blame it on their dog, cat owners blame it on dog owners, other people just fart...
hush1
not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
Feedback bewertow. Correlate your rating with words.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
" So, can one infer from the results that overly confident people aren't trustworthy ? "

If you've ever been approached by a con man, or any other jive turkey trying to pull a hustle, you might remember how confident they were. I tend to avoid overconfidence and look for self effacy.
hush1
not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
lol
Excuses are in this case superfluous. Yes there are those who like the scent of bullshit. Excuse my display of dislike.
Or not. And save excuses worthy of cause.
hush1
not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
Self-efficacy is not predictive.
What you remember about turkey, jive and con is YOUR WORRY, not your memory about their 'overconfidence' or 'self-efficacy'.

All the best in your look and avoidance system of overconfidence and 'self-efficacy'.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (2) Sep 29, 2011
Have you ever worked as a manager ? Ever had people working under you ? Self-effacy and humbleness are endearing qualities in a leader. Nobody want's to work under an overconfident windbag prick.
hush1
not rated yet Sep 29, 2011
I work with people not labels and/or hierarchy. There are a lot of nobodies in the armed forces. Your comment finds resonance with at least one Swede. Yes to both questions.
frajo
3 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2011
Trust is the absence of worry.
You confuse trust with naivety.

Downward gaze is child mode.
What dichotomized world are you living in?
Shoe2
not rated yet Sep 30, 2011
True humility is quite different from being easily embarrassed. Sure, people trust smart, qualified, yet humble people. This research was done on Cal Berkeley students.

I find that many people who are easily embarrassed, are embarrassed by something *someone else* does near them. And their response is to get angry at the person who embarrassed them.

Can't imagine such people coming across as more trustworthy!

So, while I'm sure the researchers have found something interesting, I am not at all convinced that they have found what they think they have.
hush1
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
You confuse trust with naivety.

You confuse the colloquial use of trust and naivety with what both words mean in a psychological context.

What dichotomized world are you living in?

The presumptuous conclusion in question form makes no sense.
From where and what the conclusion was drawn from only you can know. If you drew this conclusion from my words, you injected your own reasoning into it to support your conclusion.
hush1
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
State your reasoning leading to your conclusive question.
frajo
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
You confuse trust with naivety.
You confuse the colloquial use of trust and naivety with what both words mean in a psychological context.
What makes you think I'm using both words in a psychological context?

What dichotomized world are you living in?
State your reasoning leading to your conclusive question.
I don't like your German Kommandoton.
hush1
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
What makes you think I'm using both words in a psychological context?

You have not considered using both words in a psychological context. This non-consideration assumption offers an explanation to why you asserted confusion between trust and naivety.

I don't like your German Kommandoton.

My assessment of the statement: "...the most typical gesture of embarrassment is a downward gaze..." as incorrect, stirs a feeling of dislike about something you have labeled and equated as German and as a Kommandoton.

These associations of yours when I merely point out an incorrect psychological statement about embarrassment serves to complicate an otherwise simple noted error the authors made. Your reasoning serves another purpose besides my point about the author's error.
rsklyar
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
Plagiarism in a "family" style
How young ambitious capoes and soldiers from Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) under supervision of a decrepit american don-godfather from Northwestern University are successfully completed their sequential plagiaristic enterprise: http://issuu.com/...saivaldi