The Illusion of Saving Face: How People Symbolically Cope With Embarrassment

Ping Dong*, Xun (Irene) Huang, Robert S. Wyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


People who feel embarrassed are often motivated to avoid social contact-that is, to hide their face. At the same time, they may be motivated to restore the positive image that has been tarnished by the embarrassing event (or, in other words, to restore the face lost in the event). Individuals can symbolically employ these coping strategies by choosing commercial products that literally either hide their face (e.g., sunglasses) or repair it (e.g., restorative cosmetics). However, the two coping strategies have different consequences. Although symbolically repairing one's face eliminates aversive feelings of embarrassment and restores one's willingness to engage in social activities, symbolically hiding one's face has little impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2005-2012
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • coping
  • embarrassment
  • emotions
  • face saving
  • metaphor
  • product choice
  • social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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