Scientists discover 'restorative face creams' help lower embarrassment ratings

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Scientists discover 'restorative face creams' help lower embarrassment ratings

Related tags China

Research carried out by scientists at Sun Yat-Sen University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong reveals that people feeling embarrassed are more likely to choose items that hide or 'repair' the face.

The research indicates that feelings of embarrassment can be alleviated by using so-called 'restorative' products, effectively helping people to 'save face'.

Scientists Ping Dong, Xun (Irene) Huang of Sun Yat-Sen University and Robert S. Wyer, Jr. of the Chinese University of Hong Kong hypothesized that 'saving face' might be one tool for coping with embarrassment, a common negative emotion.

According to Ping Dong, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, previous research in this area mainly documents that embarrassed individuals are motivated to avoid public exposure.

"However, little work has been done to examine how they could cope with embarrassment," ​she adds.

'Daily cosmetic wearers may be more tolerant of embarrassing behavior'

In an experiment, the scientists asked participants to discuss an embarrassing situation from their past whereby some expressed great interest in sunglasses and restorative face creams - products that would conceal or cover the faces than the likes of a scarf for example.

Additional research revealed that participants who actually used the 'restorative' facial cream after re-experiencing an embarrassing moment reported lower embarrassment ratings, and they were more likely to seek out social interaction.

Wearing sunglasses, however, did not seem to alleviate feelings of embarrassment.

"Although embarrassment leads people both to hide and/or restore their face, it is only by restoring the face that their embarrassment can be decreased, as evidenced in their greater desire to participate in social activities​," Dong explains.

"It is interesting to speculate that people who wear cosmetics on a daily basis may be more tolerant of potentially embarrassing behavior," ​she adds.

The concept of 'saving face' is more pervasive in Asia...

The findings also highlighted the unconscious influence that metaphorical thinking can have on everyday behaviors, but Dong notes that this influence may depend on cultural differences not examined in the present studies given that all participants were Hong Kong Chinese.

"The metaphorical concept of 'hiding one's face' is fairly widespread, but the concepts of 'losing face' and 'saving face' are more pervasive in Asia than in Western cultures,​" the scientist observes.

"Although the effects of embarrassment on symbolically hiding one's face are likely to generalize to Western cultures, the effect of symbolically restoring one's face might not,​" Dong concludes.

'The Illusion of Saving Face: How People Symbolically Cope With Embarrassment'. Psychological Science:vol. 24 no. 10 2005-2012.

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