Monday, July 12, 2010

The Value of Embarrassment

I recently was perusing a book titled Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. It was written by Dacher Keltner who is a professor of psychology at the University of Berkley.

As I was casually turning the pages, I stopped at a composite image of the the Buddha, Gandhi and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In the text around this image, Mr. Keltner explains that signs of embarrassment, which are generally believed to indicate confusions and lack of confidence, may also indicate "our respect for others, our appreciation of their view of things, and our commitment to the moral and social order."

According to Mr. Keltner,

Far from reflecting confusion, it turns out that embarrassment can be a peacemaking force that brings people together—both during conflict and after breeches of the social contract, when there’s otherwise great potential for violence and disorder. I've even found evidence that facial displays of embarrassment have deep evolutionary roots, and that this seemingly inconsequential emotion provides us with a window into the ethical brain.

In the book, Mr. Keltner further explains that individuals who exhibit confidence, on the other hand, have the potential to be violent and aggressive.

By Googling out of curiosity while considering this post, I found an adaptation of the passage here.

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