To blush, or not to blush. The interpersonal and clinical implications of...


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Title To blush, or not to blush. The interpersonal and clinical implications of the blush's signal value
Period 08 / 2004 - 10 / 2009
Status Completed
Dissertation Yes
Research number OND1307757
Data Supplier Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)


Darwin (1872) contended that blushing serves no function and is amere derivative expression of &8220;moral&8221; emotions. Morerecently, it has been argued that precisely because blushing is anarbitrary derivative of moral emotions, blushing may have acquiredimportant interpersonal signalling functions, as it fullfills allcriteria of being a reliable signal in potential &8220;adversaries&8221; (Tinbergen, 1964). Accordingly, several authorshypothesized that blushing might be the critical display thatactually appease observers in interactions involving shame orembarrassment (Keltner, 1995). Meanwhile, and in apparent contrastwith its alleged instrumental value, blushing is also an emotionalresponse for which people may develop intense fears: Fear of blushingis a core complaint in social phobia, and many phobics reportblushing as being their primary concern. More comprehensiveunderstanding of its functional properties might not only provideimportant clues of how moral emotions actually affect observers, butalso help improving our conceptualisation of this highly prevalentanxiety disorder.Therefore, the first aim of this project is to empiricaly investigatethe alleged appeasing effects of blushing: It tests whether theactor&8217;s blush, indeed, evokes reconciliatory behaviour inobservers, and explores how blushing actually succeeds in affectingobservers. To explain why people should want not to blush despite itsalleged capacity to diffuse interpersonal threats, the project teststhe idea that the functional properties of blushing arecontext-dependent: Appeasing in the presence of clear-cut antecedentbehaviours, but revealing in their absence. Since most situationsinvolve some ambiguity with respect to the elicitors of a blush, itsrevealing effects may well prevail its appeasing effects in real life.The hypothesized context-dependent functional properties of theblush may not only be relevant to the observers, but may alsodifferentially affect the actors&8217; conception of thecommunicative value of their blushing. Following this, the project

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Supervisor Prof.dr. P.J. de Jong
Supervisor Prof.dr. M.L. Peters
Doctoral/PhD student Dr. K.F.L. Dijk


D51000 Psychology

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