I came upon this article on ScienceDaily.com, about how people who are easily embarrassed are more likely to be trusted.
Really? Personally, I don't believe this because I think that if you're easily embarrassed, you may not have that much confidence...and if you're not too confident about yourself and/or what you believe in, how am I going to trust you? I do think that if you get embarrassed easily, it just goes to show that you're human and I can relate to you easily.
But my question is, what did the researchers mean by "trust"? I don't think that they shared embarrassing stories and did "trust falls". The study, which as conducted at UC-Berkeley involved "a series of experiments that used video testimonials, economic trust games, and surveys to gauge the relationship between embarrassment and pro-sociality" that involved college students and Craigslist users.
In the survey portion, Craigslist users were the subjects, which is good because it was random selection. Like the college students, they were asked about times they felt embarrassed and they played some games. One of the games involved participants giving each other tickets or keeping them for themselves--the researchers found, with both the Craigslist group and the college kids, that the people whose stories were more embarrassing ended up giving away more of their raffle tickets.
The article states that the researchers concluded that the more embarrassed people were more generous, hence more trustworthy. But what about other factors? Could they have just given tickets for the heck of it? Maybe they're just more generous people, regardless of being easily embarrassed. The same applies to the college kids' group. I'm sure the researchers thought about this, but it wasn't mentioned in the article. There could be lurking variables that weren't addressed in the design of the experiment, and it's things like that that really affect the outcome of an experiment.
Also, I want to question the reliability of the experiment. They only performed that portion twice, and I don't think that their results could be consistent enough after 2 trials. Plus, were they comparing the two? Or just using them as trials? That is unclear.
Another part of the experiment was that a trained actor received news and had to respond with either embarrassment or pride. The trust the participants had in that person was "measured" through games. I don't really know how that worked, but the results from this portion don't seem very trustworthy to me.
I think that this experiment overall relied too much on anecdotal evidence, one of the warning signs of pseudoscience. I also think that there are still too many unanswered questions that the study did not address. For example, why are the easily embarrassed more trustworthy? Their experiment just found this occurrence but did not answer why.
I believe that if replicated, the study would yield different results. They only did it with 2 groups and I don't trust the results. That principle is especially significant in evaluating this study, as well as exploring rival hypotheses. No other studies have been done, as far as I've searched, on this issue and the researchers of this study have yet to investigate the opposite--are overconfident people are less-trustworthy?
University of California - Berkeley. "Easily embarrassed? Study finds people will trust you more." ScienceDaily, 29 Sep. 2011. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.