Publication Date

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Arlene G. Asuncion


embarrassability, embarrassment, empathic embarrassment

Subject Areas

Experimental psychology; Social psychology; Personality psychology


Empathic embarrassment occurs when an observer experiences embarrassment while viewing another person in an embarrassing situation. It was hypothesized that the type of embarrassment situation, the prior information provided about an embarrassed protagonist, perceived similarity to an embarrassed protagonist, ability to relate to an embarrassed protagonist, and embarrassability would influence empathic embarrassment responses. Participants (N = 208) either read a vignette containing general or specific information about a female embarrassed protagonist or received no prior information about her. They watched an embarrassment situation (romantic-rejection or general) featuring this protagonist and reported their empathic embarrassment responses. They then rated how similar they felt to the protagonist and how able they were to relate to her. Their embarrassability was also assessed. It was found that the general embarrassment situation evoked stronger empathic embarrassment responses than the romantic-rejection embarrassment situation. Further, the amount of prior information did not influence empathic embarrassment responses overall. High perceived similarity, high ability to relate, and high embarrassability all led to stronger empathic embarrassment responses for the romantic-rejection embarrassment situation. For the general embarrassment situation, however, these variables did not influence empathic embarrassment responses. Moreover, when embarrassability was taken into account, the difference in the empathic embarrassment responses between the embarrassment situations disappeared.