People who are easily embarrassed are also more trustworthy and generous, a new study has suggested.
Researchers at the University of California who carried out the study, found that embarrassment is a good thing-in fact, embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources.
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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."
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.
Researchers conducted a series of experiments using video testimonials, economic trust games and surveys to gauge the relationship between embarrassment and pro-sociality.
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."
The study has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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