Embarrassment is a powerful emotion. When we are in a social situation and feel ashamed, it’s not possible to control our reaction. After all, you can’t stop yourself from blushing, if that’s one of your responses to embarrassment.
In states of embarrassment people want to hide, become invisible, or, as the phrase goes, want to dig a hole and disappear in it. There is another phrase people use when talking about a moment of embarrassment: “I didn’t know where to look.”
Avoiding eye contact is another reaction to feeling shame. Carrie is talking about an embarrassing experience and she finds it impossible to maintain eye contact, so she shifts her gaze back and forth.
She’s trying to see the funny side of the story she’s telling, but as her eyebrows come together and her lips turn down, we see that it’s painful to relate. She finishes by putting a comforting hand on her face.
Signs to note
- shifts her gaze in different directions
- looks down
- turns down the corners of her mouth
- puts a hand to her face
By John Habershon
Dr John Habershon has spent many hundreds of hours conducting in-depth interviews during his career in consumer and social research. Over the last eight years he has analysed the nonverbal responses captured on video on a wide range of topics, ranging from favorite products and advertising on TV, to bereavement and stress at work. He became involved in work for those on the autism spectrum through friends with Asperger’s in the family and has created Emotions Reader, (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/readingemotionssystem) an interactive program with quizzes to help users identify facial expressions. John has a long standing interest in understanding emotions, having gained his PhD on the psychological effects of unemployment at Imperial College, London University. He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. http://www.momentumresearch.co.uk/