Washington: Do you get embarrassed easily? Fret not. A study says that people who are easily embarrassed are also more trustworthy and more generous.
Researchers at the University of California have carried out the study and found that embarrassment is a good thing - in fact, embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources.
Not only are the 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. Our data suggests embarrassment is a good thing, not something you should fight," said Matthew Feinberg, who led the study.
The researchers point out that the moderate type of embarrassment they examined should not be confused with debilitating social anxiety or with "shame", that's 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 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.
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 remainder to a partner.
The findings, published in the 'Journal of Personality and Social Psychology', showed that those who showed greater levels of embarrassment tended to give away more of their raffle tickets, indicating greater generosity.
The 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.
The results showed that embarrassment signals people's tendency to be pro-social. You want to affiliate with them more, you feel comfortable trusting them," Feinberg said.