People prefer products that help them 'save face' in embarrassing moments

August 13, 2013, Association for Psychological Science

People who are feeling embarrassed are more likely to choose items that hide or 'repair' the face, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research indicates that feelings of embarrassment can be alleviated by using so-called 'restorative' products—effectively helping people to "save face."

"Previous research on embarrassment mainly documents that embarrassed individuals are motivated to avoid public exposure," explains Ping Dong, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto and lead author of the new research. "However, little work has been done to examine how they could cope with embarrassment."

Dong and colleagues Xun (Irene) Huang of Sun Yat-Sen University and Robert S. Wyer, Jr. of the Chinese University of Hong Kong hypothesized that metaphorical reasoning—the idea of 'saving face'—might be one tool for coping with embarrassment, a common negative emotion.

In their first experiment, Dong and colleagues asked some to describe an embarrassing situation from their past, while others in the were simply asked to describe a typical day at school; later, all participants rated various pairs of sunglasses.

The findings showed that participants who relived their embarrassing experience tended to prefer large, darkly-tinted sunglasses. In effect, they favored the options that covered up their faces.

In another experiment, embarrassed participants expressed greater interest in sunglasses and restorative face creams – products that would conceal or cover the —than in scarves or shoes.

Additional research revealed that participants who actually used the 'restorative' facial cream after re-experiencing an embarrassing moment reported lower embarrassment ratings, and they were more likely to seek out . Wearing sunglasses, however, did not seem to alleviate feelings of embarrassment.

"Although embarrassment leads people both to hide their face and to restore their face, only by restoring their face can their embarrassment be decreased, as evidenced in their greater desire to participate in social activities," Dong explains. "It is interesting to speculate that people who wear cosmetics on a daily basis may be more tolerant of potentially embarrassing behavior."

The findings highlight the unconscious influence that metaphorical thinking can have on everyday behaviors, but Dong notes that this influence may depend on cultural differences not examined in the present studies given that all participants were Hong Kong Chinese.

"The metaphorical concept of 'hiding one's face' is fairly widespread, but the concepts of 'losing face' and 'saving face' are more pervasive in Asian than in Western cultures," she observes. "Although the effects of on symbolically hiding one's face are likely to generalize to Western cultures, the effect of symbolically restoring one's face might not."

Explore further: Easily embarrassed? Study finds people will trust you more

Related Stories

Easily embarrassed? Study finds people will trust you more

September 28, 2011
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 ...

Neurological basis for embarrassment described

April 15, 2011
Recording people belting out an old Motown tune and then asking them to listen to their own singing without the accompanying music seems like an unusually cruel form of punishment. But for a team of scientists at the University ...

Caregivers of those with dementia may benefit from tailored interventions

July 18, 2013
Rhode Island Hospital researchers have found that multiple factors contribute to the burden felt by caregivers of people living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. These factors include the direct impact of providing ...

Tight times may influence how we perceive others

November 28, 2012
From the playground to the office, a key aspect of our social lives involves figuring out who "belongs" and who doesn't. Our biases lead us—whether we're aware of it or not—to favor people who belong to our own social ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Gmr
not rated yet Aug 14, 2013
Interesting study, more so for the realization of the researchers that the results bear more on metaphorical thinking than innate human reactions. It would be nice to see if there were other metaphorical aspects to language that could be explored that could influence people.

Of course, if marketing ever got hold of it, it would be turned to evil.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.