Communicative and Remedial Effects of Social Blushing
Three experiments (N = 90; N = 78; N = 52) examined the communicative and remedial properties of blushing. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants read scripts describing incidents that took place in shops. Following the mishap the actor left while displaying a blush (target condition), left the shop without overt signs of shame or embarrassment (baseline condition), or left while displaying shame by nonverbal behaviors other than blushing (comparison condition). Participants were put in the perspective of a shopping observer and were asked to evaluate the actor and the incident. Blushing clearly attenuated the negative evaluation of the incident, lowered the responsibility of the actor, and sustained the actor's trustworthiness. The remedial effects of blushing were even stronger than those of glancing about with the expression of shame. Experiment 2 explored what type of message may elicit these remedial effects and showed that blushing communicates that the actor is strongly attached to the observer's rules, despite the current violation. Experiment 3 provided further evidence for a communicative account of blushing by showing that the actors' blush probability estimates varied as a function of the degree to which the actors shared the rules of the observers. The present findings fit comfortably within a conceptualization of blushing as a remedial gesture.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.