Cringe Factor: Your Body Betrays Embarrassment

Focuses on the results of a research facilitated by Christine Harris, psychologist at the University of San Diego, on the psychological effects of concealing emotions. Psychological effects of hiding humiliation; Description of the research process.

By Monique I. Cuvelier, published on March 1, 2002 - last reviewed on July 19, 2012


It's hard to tame a blush or stifle nervous laughter. Turns out there's a physiological toll to hiding humiliation as well: Blood pressure skyrockets, then climbs steadily the longer you suppress signs of embarrassment.

Christine Harris, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of San Diego, asked students to sing the national anthem while concealing their emotions.

Subjects reigned in telltale symptoms like face-touches, excessive blinking and the giggles but shifted their gaze and swallowed far more than a control group permitted to emote about their painful performance.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.