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The effects of embarrassment on cognition and behavior


Several studies have found that specific emotions can have distinct effects on decision making, however, very few include embarrassment. A few theoretical frameworks have been put forth to understand the effects of emotions on decisions. These frameworks are typically based off of research that investigates emotions that are unrelated to subsequent judgments or choices. This dissertation presents findings that examine the effects of embarrassment on decision making. The results offer an alternative framework, emotion regulation, for understanding the effects of embarrassment on a variety of judgments and choices that are both related (integral) and unrelated (incidental) to the embarrassing situation. Chapter 2 presents data suggesting that incidental embarrassment has distinct effects on risk perception and risk taking compared to anger, fear, and neutral mood states, and that these effects may be driven by attempts to alleviate negative affect. Findings from Chapter 3 suggest that medical embarrassment causes increased perceptions of cervical exam embarrassment and decreased screening intentions without influencing cancer risk perceptions. Data provide additional support for an emotion regulation framework. People tend to choose the route most likely to alleviate negative affect, particularly if it fulfills the motivation of the emotion. Chapter 4 examines the effects of power as a moderator of subjective experiences of embarrassment and disgust. Rather than high power providing a buffer against negative affect, the evidence indicates that power increases negative emotion. Chapter 5 argues that embarrassment has distinct effects on decision making and presents a framework for understanding such effects

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