Blushing may signify guilt: Revealing effects of blushing in ambiguous social situations

PJ de Jong*, ML Peters, D De Cremer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    Although blushing after a social infraction can function as a remedial gesture, people generally consider blushing as an undesirable response. To address this apparent inconsistency, we tested the idea that blushing has remedial properties after clear-cut antecedent behaviors, but can undermine the actor's image in ambiguous situations. In Experiment 1, participants (N = 49) read vignettes referring to prototypical mishaps, transgressions, and ambiguous situations. In Experiment 2 (N = 58), we specifically varied the actor's intentionality while keeping the actor's behavior constant. In support of its alleged face-saving properties, blushing had remedial effects after obvious mishaps and voluntary transgressions. However, in ambiguous social situations and after transgressions that are ambiguous with respect to the actor's intentionality, blushing undermined the actor's trustworthiness.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)225-249
    Number of pages25
    JournalMotivation and Emotion
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sep-2003


    • blushing
    • trustworthiness
    • guilt
    • appeasement
    • embarrassment
    • MODEL
    • SHAME

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