The surprising perks of being easily embarrassed


Why do people blush? Darwin studied the phenomenon of reddened cheeks and necks as a response to embarrassment and wrote, "Blushing is the most peculiar and most human of all expressions." And, unlike a smile or laughter, a blush can't be faked. David Robson wrote an article on about new research that suggests that "feelings of excruciating embarrassment may be crucial for your wellbeing in the long term."

Psychologist Mark Leary at Duke University thinks blushes are “non-verbal apologies” that can clear up awkward moments. “Even if you are innocent, it may not hurt to convey discomfort at being accused – to say ‘I'm sorry that I have inadvertently given you a reason to suspect me’,” Leary said.

Matthew Feinberg did research at the University of California, Berkeley, and found that people who were more easily flustered were more likely to be altruistic and to play honestly in a game that involved cash rewards.

In a subsequent experiment, Feinberg showed participants pictures of people with embarrassed expressions, and asked them a series of questions, such as; “If this person were a fellow student, how likely is it that you would ask her to join a study group that you were a part of?” People who looked a little flustered were more likely to be included than those who looked cool and calm.

Amazingly, red-faced awkwardness may boost your sex appeal when faced with someone you fancy. “If they are looking for a long-term partner, it could show that you are prosocial, cooperative – someone who isn’t going to cheat,” says Feinberg, who is now at the University of Toronto.

Read the rest

Do animals cry?

Maria Konnikova on the appearance and the authenticity of emotion in the animal kingdom--and how we can use science to explore it.

Video: uncanny 3D faces show "parametric expressions"

It's watching us, and this is what it sees. Mike Pelletier explores quantified emotions in software, in collaboration with Subbacultcha! and Pllant / Marieke van Helden [Video Link] Read the rest

Why music makes us all verklempt (or angry, or wistful, or ...)

It could just be cultural connections that make us identify one song as happy and another as sad. But, explains Joe Hanson, there's evidence that our emotional connections to music are more universal than that.

In this video about evolution, music, and smooshy feelings, Hanson describes a study that asked participants to create short lines of music that matched specific emotions. The results were surprisingly similar, whether the participants were Americans, or people from an isolated village in Cambodia. Read the rest

There is no crying in space

Or, rather, there can be. But it's really, really awkward. Read the rest

Chimps suffer mid-life crises

Chimpanzees and orangutans experience mid-life crises, suggesting that the causes are "inherent in primate biology and not specific to human society." [Reuters] Read the rest