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The positive effects of blushing

17 March 2015

Most people find blushing unpleasant. But can blushing sometimes have positive effects as well, for example when you accidentally make a mistake and then blush to show others that you will try to prevent making the same mistake in the future? This is difficult to study in a laboratory, as only a limited number of situations can be examined realistically and it is difficult to elicit blushing. Researchers from the University of Groningen and McGill University recently studied blushing in daily life.

They asked young adults, who blush more often than older people, to repeatedly complete brief questionnaires on how they behaved and felt during conversations with others. They did this after each conversation for a period of two weeks. Blushing occurred on average once a day, but some study participants blushed much more often than others. Participants who blushed often were more submissive and less dominant towards others, even when they did not blush. When they did blush, they experienced shame. Participants who did not blush often did not experience shame when they blushed, and mostly appeared to be blushing in pleasant situations. In this group in particular, blushing might have a positive communicative function.

The study by Marije aan het Rot (University of Groningen), D.S. Moskowitz (McGill University Canada), and Peter J. de Jong (University of Groningen) was published in the Open Access journal PLOS ONE with the title ' Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Concomitants of Facial Blushing during Everyday Social Encounters'.

Last modified:18 March 2015 09.54 a.m.

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