Self-Diversification

Detail of 'Relativity' by M. C. Escher, 1953.

Melissa Dahl brings us the most unsurprising, least unexpected news of the week:

Embarrassing moments don’t have to happen in a crowd. Oh, no — you are perfectly capable of embarrassing yourself even when you’re all alone.

And, yet, think of it this way: Someone actually went and built a study.

This is not, however, as simple as it seems:

This idea may not sound so surprising, especially to those of us who regularly manage to make private fools of ourselves. But it’s a pretty radically different way of thinking about embarrassment for psychology researchers. Embarrassment has long been thought of as a social emotion, one that depends on your having an audience to witness whatever ridiculous thing you’ve just done. It’s long been theorized that the feeling of embarrassment alerts you to the fact that you’ve violated some social norm, so that you can course-correct and apologize if necessary, without losing your standing in the group. The social nature of embarrassment has been thought to explain the feeling’s physiological response, too – in particular, blushing – in that it alerts others to your emotional state. You know you messed up, and you are feeling properly awkward about it.

Except now there is this study, see, and apparently everyone is supposed to be confused. But it really isn’t confusing.

The key is to remember that the internal monologue is not a monologue.

Consider an idea: It is demonstrable that in order to share humor with ourselves, we essentially build a virtual other to simulate a sense of common reaction and experience. Nor should this be hard to grasp in other ways; it certainly explains much about the idea of a judgmental monotheistic godhead. Why should we not virtually judge ourselves; it seems a very human thing to do.

____________________

Dahl, Melissa. “You Can Embarrass Yourself Even When You’re All Alone”. Science of Us. 23 September 2015.

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