Cardiovascular responses of embarrassment and effects of emotional suppression in a social setting

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Nov;81(5):886-97. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.81.5.886.


The cardiovascular effects of embarrassment and of attempts to suppress embarrassment were examined. In 2 studies, embarrassment was associated with substantial increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, which monotonically increased over a 2-minute embarrassment period. In contrast, heart rate (HR) rose significantly during the 1st minute of embarrassment but returned to baseline levels during the 2nd minute. This pattern of reactivity may be distinctive. The effects of trying to suppress emotion in an interpersonal situation were also tested. Relative to the no-suppression group, suppression participants showed greater blood pressure during embarrassment and during posttask recovery. Suppression did not significantly affect HR. Possible mechanisms for these results, including passive coping, are discussed. Nonverbal behavior was also examined.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Self-Assessment
  • Shame*
  • Social Environment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors