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Study Finds That Being Easily Embarrassed Is a ‘Sign of Virtue’

Matthew Loberg, Flickr

People who are quick to be moderately embarrassed are more trustworthy, more generous, and more likely to be monogamous, according to a study from the University of California at Berkeley.

Researchers videotaped 60 college students telling stories about an embarrassing  moment – for example asking an overweight woman if she is pregnant — and then rated the speakers on how embarrassed they felt.

Next they had the same students play games that measured trustworthiness and generosity. What they found is that the more easily embarrassed a person is, the more likely they are to display these pro-social traits.

The researchers note this correlations only applies to normal levels of embarrassment – not to shame or social anxiety.

Matthew Feinberg, who led the research, said, “Moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue. Our data suggests embarrassment is a good thing, not something you should fight.”

They concluded that their finding “may be helpful for people seeking reliable partners in business and romance.”


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