Our bodies are complex mechanisms that work instantly and seamlessly to our commands. We don’t think of moving our body, we just move, yet science has established that signals are generated and then are sent from the brain to the part of the body that you want to move. However, in other situations, it works on its own and seems to not care about our commands. Remember that time when you awkwardly tripped and fell down and everyone was just staring at you? You must’ve noticed that the blood just rushes to your face, it turns warm, and your face turns red. But why does that happen? As we never wanted our faces to turn red.
The science behind Blushing
Blushing is a universal trait of humans, pretty much each and every one blushes from time to time. Interestingly, blushing is a trait that is only found in humans and no other species on the planet. Charles Darwin also stated it as “most peculiar and most human of all expressions”. Even though we had established that blushing is something that is specific to us, no psychological research was conducted up until recently.
The act of blushing is globally linked with embarrassment. In fact, in the modern world where we use emoticons as a way to express our emotions virtually, embarrassment almost always is represented as being red-faced. But unlike other reasons that cause redness of the skin; burns, physical exertion, or anything along those lines that are reactions of our skin to signal us about the impact and damaging of the skin, in blushing nothing like that happens. Though some psychologists completely dismiss the link between embarrassment and redness of the face, stating that one can be embarrassed without having their face turn red. Additionally, it is not the embarrassment, other emotions like rage also impact our blood flow and cause our face to turn red. Also, one feels their face turn warm during these situations, physiological changes are not necessarily visible all the time.
We understand that it is a psychological phenomenon and it is triggered by our emotions but why have we not produced a significant study that solidifies this statement? Because redness of face cannot be controlled or done on command. As it was said by the psychologist, that no matter how great an actor can act a series of emotions that can force us to believe they are real, blushing cannot be acted. Also, the tools used for measurements were either photography or videography. But since one cannot act blushing all the studies have produced results that cannot be relied on. Though this type of redness occurs and disappears quickly scientists are able to at least find a different method to measure the redness. Photoplethysmography and lasers are being used in this research to capture the blood flow in the face. Though blood flows through our body, our facial skin has a large number of capillary holes and is also closer to the surface of the skin, and when blood is flown towards this region our face appears red. In addition to facial redness, during embarrassment and shyness, redness of the neck and upper chest is also seen, which works on a similar principle.
- Self-Consciousness: Another fascinating aspect of the redness theorized by psychologists is that it is linked with the sense of self, and how we perceive ourselves in front of others. Though a little research has been dedicated towards the reason behind it, most focused on the hows of it. Additionally, all the researches were based on the assumption that blushing was caused due to embarrassment. Some state that the psychological redness of the face occurs when undesired social attention is given to a person, for example, stating that someone is blushing makes them blush more or when the class starts laughing upon asking a question, nonetheless, these can still be interpreted as self-image. However, others argue with this statement and say that this only explains the blushing upon being the center of attention, it does not explain the redness when sensitive topics are talked about, one can find themselves blushing.
- Red Signal: As there are many theories and each psychologist contributes more to this topic, we now have a decent understanding that blushing could also be a sign. Some say that the reason why our face turns red without the cause of embarrassment is due to the feeling of being sorry or guilty. In the former, when a person is sorry their face turns red and if they are unable to communicate verbally, this emotion is seen as a blush. While the guilt redness is seen as a negative trait, because if a person has done an ambiguous task and upon being asked their face can turn red. However, this one is mostly seen in children and teenagers, rarely in adults.
- Phobia: Though blushing is seen as a healthy and natural reaction of our mind and body, some people tend to develop issues with it. Some people due to personal reasons prefer not to blush, and as we have established it is uncontrollable, these individuals start to develop anxiety towards facial redness. Sometimes it can give rise to a phobia known as Erythrophobia, which is basically the fear of excessive blushing. It becomes so problematic sometimes that they have to seek professional help along with treating their face so it would inhibit redness.
Overall, it is safe to say that the redness of the face is caused by multiple factors and as there are many causes, so are the theories behind it. But it sure is a fun and cute way to see the emotions physically appearing on the face.