Date Published: 1 October 2011

People who are easily embarrassed are often more trustworthy and generous

Health News from the United States of America (USA)
See also news from California (USA),
and news from Berkeley (CA, USA).

People who are easily embarrassed are also more trustworthy and more generous according to a recent study from the University of California, Berkeley (USA).

This is good news for people who find themselves tripping in public or blushing due to minor social gaffs. Here is more information about why some psychologists have suggested that 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.

Not only are the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) results and conclusions useful for people seeking cooperative and reliable team members and business partners, but they may also lead to helpful dating advice. This is because those subjects who were more easily embarrassed also reported higher levels of monogamy, interesting.

" Moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue," said Matthew Feinberg, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley.
" Our data suggests embarrassment is a good thing, not something you should fight."

The 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. This distinction can be observed in gestures as well as identified by deeper understanding of the person and situation. For example, the most typical gesture of embarrassment is a downward gaze to one side while partially covering the face and either smirking or grimacing. By comparison, a person who feels shame, as opposed to meer embarrassment, will typically cover the whole face, according to Matthew Feinberg, the lead author of the recent paper.

The results reported in the recent study published in this month's online issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 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.

Research into Embarrassment:
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" (an American English word meaning the same as "beggar" in British English). Research assistants coded each video testimonial based on the level of embarrassment the subjects showed.

Research into Generosity:
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, according to lead researcher Mathew Feinberg.

Source: University of California, Berkeley (USA)

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