Does blushing serve a purpose?

This study investigated the remedial value of blushing in the context of clear-cut predicaments. Besides testing the effects of displaying a blush on a neutral expression, we investigated whether blushing increased the remedial properties of shameful and embarrassed expressions. After reading a vignette describing either a transgression (Experiment 1; N = 66) or a mishap (Experiment 2; N = 62), participants saw pictures of people with or without a blush and rated them on several dimensions (e.g., sympathy, trustworthiness). The results of both experiments supported the hypothesis that blushing has remedial properties. In most instances, blushing actors were evaluated more favorably than their nonblushing counterparts. Although people often consider blushing to be an undesirable response, our results showed that, in the context of transgressions and mishaps, blushing is a helpful bodily signal with face-saving properties.

Source: “The remedial value of blushing in the context of transgressions and mishaps.” from Emotion. 2009 Apr;9(2):287-91.

If you want to learn more about the face, body language and social signaling then check out Ekman, Navarro and Goffman.

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