Social presence, embarrassment, and nonverbal behavior

Marco Costa, A.A. Dinsbach, A.S.R. Manstead, Pio-Enrico Ricci-Bitti

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    Nonverbal behaviors in response to viewing slides depicting nude males, nude females, erotic couples and neutral pictures, either alone or in the presence of two unfamiliar individuals, were studied in 22 female and 16 male university students. Participants were unaware of being videorecorded. Results revealed discrepancies between self-reported embarrassment and nonverbal behaviors supposedly expressive of embarrassment. Although self-reported embarrassment was higher when certain types of slides were viewed in the presence of others than when they were viewed alone, we observed significantly fewer lip movements, gaze shifts, face touches, downward gazes, and downward head movements in the presence of unfamiliar individuals than in the alone condition. We also compared behaviors during slide exposure and during the inter-slide intervals. For 9 out of 11 coded behaviors, frequencies were significantly higher during inter-slide intervals than during slide presentation. We argue that this is probably due to the fact that visual attention to the slides inhibited nonverbal behaviors. The results cast doubt on the possibility of inferring the internal state of an emotion such as embarrassment by analyzing nonverbal behaviors without taking account of the social setting in which such observations are made.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)225-240
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of nonverbal behavior
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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