Article image

How to eliminate embarrassment as an emotional option

A research team at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a strategy to help people avoid feeling awkward in everyday circumstances. The scientists are reporting that embarrassment can be prevented altogether if you train your mind to think of yourself as merely an observer rather than a participant in uncomfortable situations.

According to the experts, an unnecessary fear of humiliation often holds us back from seeking advice on certain topics and causes us to dodge certain situations. The researchers pointed out that failure to get help can sometimes have serious consequences, particularly when an individual is dealing with a medical issue.

“Embarrassment prevents us from asking advice about what we should do, for example, about our mounting mortgage bills or unplanned pregnancies,” said study lead author Li Jiang. “In many cases, if we are to help ourselves, and others, we must overcome our fear of embarrassment in social situations.”

Study participants watched videos of people in various awkward situations, such as getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases or accidentally passing gas in front of a love interest, and they were asked to describe how it made them feel.

Individuals who were the most self-conscious actually felt humiliated by just watching the videos. However, when these participants perceived themselves as being merely observers instead of being involved in the scenario, their levels of self-consciousness dropped.

“Our research shows that devising strategies to successfully reduce embarrassment avoidance is complicated,” said Jiang. “This is because consumers will react differently to persuasion tactics depending on their level of public self-consciousness and their amount of available cognitive resources.”

Jiang explained that many products, such as laundry and dish detergent, are advertised to consumers as a way to avoid embarrassment.

“Our research is relevant to those situations in which marketers want to inoculate consumers against a fear of embarrassment and encourage them to take actions they might otherwise avoid.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day