Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Your flaws are my pain: Experience of vicarious embarrassment is linked to empathy

Date:
April 14, 2011
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Today, there is increasing exposure of individuals to a public audience. Television shows and the Internet provide platforms for this and, at times, allow observing others' flaws and norm transgressions. Regardless of whether the person observed realizes their flaw or not, observers in the audience experience vicarious embarrassment. For the first time, such vicarious embarrassment experiences as well as their neural basis have been investigated.

Today, there is increasing exposure of individuals to a public audience. Television shows and the Internet provide platforms for this and, at times, allow observing others' flaws and norm transgressions. Regardless of whether the person observed realizes their flaw or not, observers in the audience experience vicarious embarrassment.

For the first time, such vicarious embarrassment experiences as well as their neural basis have been investigated in research published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE. The research was led by S๖ren Krach and Frieder M. Paulus from Philipps-University Marburg, Germany in collaboration with Christopher J. Cohrs from Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom.

In two consecutive studies, using behavioral measures and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the authors show that the experience of vicarious embarrassment is linked to empathy and neural activations in brain areas constituting the affective component of the pain matrix: the anterior cingulate cortex and the left anterior insula (Hein & Singer, 2008; Singer et al., 2004). The authors generated four kinds of everyday life situations eliciting vicarious embarrassment. Observing a protagonist who is aware about his or her inappropriate condition (e.g. tripping, as "America's Next Top Model") or unaware (e.g. wearing a T-shirt with an imprint that comments on one's sexual capabilities) resulted in comparable activations in core regions of the pain matrix. Moreover, the level of activation in these brain regions positively correlated with the degree to which the observers described themselves as empathic.

"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." According to the researchers, their findings may be due to the fact that sharing another person's state is influenced by the additional information that is exclusively accessible to the observers in a social situation. The present results thus complement the conventional view on empathy and suggest a distinction of forms of empathy: one which is more or less a co-experience of another's feeling state, and another one which rather reflects the observer's own evaluation of the situation in the social context.

"Today, nearly any aspect of one's personal life may reach a broad audience. Any publicly exposed atypical, awkward, or flawed behaviour 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. 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."

Although vicarious embarrassment has gained significant attention in the media, the investigation of its underlying mechanisms and its neural correspondence is only now starting to integrate social psychological with neurocognitive and affective research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S๖ren Krach, Jan Christopher Cohrs, Nicole Cruz de Echeverrํa Loebell, Tilo Kircher, Jens Sommer, Andreas Jansen, Frieder Michel Paulus. Your Flaws Are My Pain: Linking Empathy To Vicarious Embarrassment. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (4): e18675 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018675

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Your flaws are my pain: Experience of vicarious embarrassment is linked to empathy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110413171321.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2011, April 14). Your flaws are my pain: Experience of vicarious embarrassment is linked to empathy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110413171321.htm
Public Library of Science. "Your flaws are my pain: Experience of vicarious embarrassment is linked to empathy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110413171321.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids

Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) — New numbers show a decade's worth of changes in the number of kids with disabilities. They suggest mental disabilities are up; physical ones are down. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins