Why Someone Else's Gaffe Makes You Cringe04/15/11
FRIDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- A new study helps explain
why people feel embarrassed when they observe other people's flaws
and social transgressions, whether in real life, on television or
on the Internet.
This vicarious embarrassment can occur even if the person you're
watching doesn't feel any discomfort or shame, according to the
study published April 13 in the journal
"We were fascinated about how frequent people report their vicarious embarrassment experiences in everyday life, and how little empirical research on this topic exists. Apparently, there are many occasions one could experience this vicarious emotion for another currently not feeling anything," the researchers wrote in a journal news release.
They found that vicarious embarrassment is linked to empathy and
neural activations in brain areas that play a role in feeling pain
-- the anterior cingulate cortex and the left anterior insula.
The findings suggest there are two forms of empathy, the
researchers said. One is essentially a co-experience of another
person's feelings, while the other reflects an observer's own
evaluation of a situation in a social context.
"Today, nearly any aspect of one's personal life may reach a broad audience. Any publicly exposed atypical, awkward or flawed behavior has the potential to evoke vicarious embarrassment in others. Lastly, it depends on the observers to conclude what is inappropriate in the specific social context or not," the researchers wrote.
"Among all these involved processes, however, we believe it is the tendency to represent another's situation that could mediate the embodied experience of the social emotion," they added in the release.
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