Embarrassment: The communication of an awkward actor anticipating a negative evaluation

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Embarrassment is often conceptualized as produced by either an awkward interaction or a negative social evaluation. The present study uses the Cupach and Metts (1994) and Sharkey and Stafford (1990) typologies to analyze these two influences. Respondents (n=327) describe embarrassing situations they experienced and explain why they were embarrassing. Chi-square results suggest a difference between awkward interaction and social evaluation as the primary influence on embarrassment in self-induced, actor-responsible situations and on other-induced, observer-responsible situations. Self-induced embarrassment predicaments are associated with a loss of personal script and an awkward interaction. Embarrassment caused by others shows a greater influence of perceived negative social evaluation. These results suggest that embarrassment is best conceptualized as a multidimensional phenomenon having multiple triggers and with multiple communication responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241–260
JournalHuman Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


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