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.