Empathic Blushing in Friends and Strangers

Abstract

Three volunteers watched a previously recorded video of one of them singing, as cheek sensors monitored their blushing. When performers watched videotapes of their performance, they blushed significantly more than strangers, but not more than their own friends, watching with them. Friends and strangers did not differ significantly in blushing, however. Skin conductance arousal responses of performers and friends, but not performers and strangers, or friends of performers and strangers, were correlated. In a second experiment, strangers who sang before watching another person sing blushed more than strangers who did not sing first, or who sang and then watched a neutral video. This suggests that performing the embarrassing act may have predisposed people to blush, perhaps empathically, later. No gender differences were seen in blushing. Embarrassability questionnaire scores did not correlate with blushing. Empathic accuracy, and associative learning, are proposed to account for the results.

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Shearn, D., Spellman, L., Straley, B. et al. Empathic Blushing in Friends and Strangers. Motivation and Emotion 23, 307–316 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021342910378

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Keywords

  • Gender Difference
  • Social Psychology
  • Associative Learning
  • Skin Conductance
  • Questionnaire Score