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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Thorstenson, C., Pazda, A. & Lichtenfeld, S. (2019). Facial blushing influences perceived embarrassment and related social functional evaluations. Cognition and Emotion

Author(s) from Durham


Facial blushing involves a reddening of the face elicited in situations involving unwanted social attention. Such situations include being caught committing a social transgression, which is typically considered embarrassing. While recent research has demonstrated that facial redness can influence social evaluations, including emotional states such as perceived anger, the influence of blushing on social perceptions related to embarrassment or social transgression has yet to be investigated. Across three experiments, we manipulated the redness of neutral faces (Exp. 1) and faces displaying different emotional expressions (Exps. 2 and 3), and had participants evaluate perceived embarrassment, apology sincerity, and likeliness to forgive a transgression for each set of stimuli. Results indicated that redder (relative to baseline) faces influenced perceived embarrassment, apology sincerity, and likeliness to forgive a transgression. We discuss the implications in the context of a social functional account of facial color in emotion expression and perception.

School of Education