The person you are talking to has food in their teeth. Do you tell them or ignore it to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation? According to new research, whether you say something or not may be associated with your own feelings regarding embarrassment.
The study was small, consisting of only 84 college students. Participants received the opportunity to help an experimenter by pointing out she had ink on her face. Some were told that the experimenter had an interview to go to following the experiment, while others were not. Some participants shared the room with the experimenter and someone else in the study, while others had one-on-one interaction.
Study participants also completed a test measuring certain personality factors and their tendency to feel embarrassed. It was found that those who feel embarrassed easily were slower to point out the ink and less likely to do it with another person present. If they did mention the ink, it was usually by whispering, MSNBC reports.
The researchers write this study suggests the “… fear of embarrassment is a strong inhibitory factor in social helping situations, and that personality factors can predict who will be inhibited from helping.”
This study is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.