WHY must I BLUSH??
Blushing… the uncontrollable and incredibly inconvenient reaction caused by embarrassment / being flustered / general emotional stress. It is the red flag (that is your face), broadcasting your social discomfort to everyone. Personally… I could do without it. I would like to pull off a cool, calm, calculated, nonchalance in embarrassing or uncomfortable situations. However, this is really hard when your face spills ALL your emotional beans! I think I spent half my pubescent years with a case of slapped cheek.
But WHY must we blush?? I have spent a number of train rides (ok.. one) thinking about the evolutionary benefits of blushing … and I could not think of an answer! How does displaying your discomfort help you in any way? Surely all the obvious, red-faced liars were removed from the gene pool? Even Charles Darwin described blushing as “the most peculiar and most human of all expressions”!
Essentially, when you become emotionally compromised, your body experiences the ‘fight or flight’ reaction and you receive a flush of adrenaline. The adrenaline causes your blood vessels to dilate, resulting in a flush of blood to your face. ie. you blush.
In Dijk et al. (2009) paper, they basically suggest that it helps you get out of trouble. That you are more easily forgiven because you show you are regretful;
“Publicly conveying embarrassment or shame may signify the actor’s recognition that she/he has committed a social or moral infraction, and regrets this. As a consequence, this message may mitigate the negative social impression that was caused by the infraction.”
I do agree with this point. I would even extend this idea to include displaying naivety (in certain situations). I have found blushing rather cute / endearing when it indicates a level of naivety or confused pleasure. But what about in situations where you really do not want to be given away as guilty?? Such as for serious crimes?… surely displaying your guilt on your face could get you in some serious trouble?