Are you the type of person to be easily embarrassed by such things as getting called on in class, getting recognition at work or tripping in public? A recent study from researchers at UC Berkeley suggests that people tend to trust those who are easily embarrassed more than those who are not. The findings confirm that people who get embarrassed easier really tend to be more trustworthy and generous.
It has also been shown that people who become embarrassed easily have higher levels of monogamy, are responsible, and make cooperative, reliable team members, business partners, and dating advisors. This type of person is not to be confused with the “socially awkward” person who becomes easily anxious and shamed. The researchers concluded that because they become embarrassed easier, other people feel empathetic towards them; upon putting themselves in the embarrassed person’s mindset, they have an easier time growing acceptance of the person.
For the study, scientists performed two different experiments on separate groups of people. These experiments reproduced what awkward moments would feel like, and turned them into games. One of these is a retelling of the classic “dictator game” that is popular among many psychologists while the other one is a bit more involved.
In the dictator game, certain participants received ten lottery tickets and were asked to keep some while sharing the rest with someone who didn’t get any. During the game, those with higher levels of embarrassment gave away more lottery tickets than those who were less prone to embarrassment. This led the team of researchers to believe that those who become embarrassed easily are more trustworthy and try to avoid looking selfish. The ones who kept the most lottery tickets appeared too prideful and selfish.
The second game had the test subjects watch an (unbeknownst to them) actor being told he received a perfect score on a test he had taken. The actor would sometimes act prideful and boastful, while other times he would pretend to be embarrassed. The subjects were then allowed to interact with the actor in a variety of different games that measured trust. Curiously, those who witnessed the actor’s embarrassed performance trusted him more than the people who had seen his boastful act.
Body language can be as important, or in some cases more important than verbal communication. Humans can detect the slightest changes in someone’s attitude and we are always trying to read the people we are talking to. Just like that slight break in your interviewer’s smile might reveal some uncertainty, and your best friend shifting around might let you know they are nervous about something . . . then the person you just witnessed take a spill in the park’s fountain and is turning bright red with embarrassment might win your trust easier.
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