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In this article we examine the role of appeasement in human emotion, social practice, and personality. We first present an analysis of human appeasement. Appeasement begins when the conditions of social relations lead one individual to anticipate aggression from others, is expressed in submissive, inhibited behavior, which in turn evokes inferences and emotions in others that bring about social reconciliation. Our empirical review focuses on two classes of human appeasement: reactive forms of appeasement, including embarrassment and shame, which placate others after social transgressions; and anticipatory forms of appeasement, including polite modesty and shyness, which reduce the likelihood of social conflict and aggression. Our review of the empirical evidence indicates that embarrassment, shame, modesty, and shyness share the eliciting conditions, submissive behavior, and social consequences of appeasement. We conclude by discussing social processes that allow humans to appease one another, such as teasing, and those that prevent appeasement, such as legal and negotiation practices, to the benefit and detriment of human relations. Aggr. Behav. 23:359–374, 1997. © 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
In this article, we review diverse studies of the antecedents, facial display, and social consequences of embarrassment. These studies indicate that embarrassment serves an appeasement function, reconciling social relations when they have gone awry. We then speculate about how embarrassment is elaborated into more complex social interactions, such as teasing and flirtation. We conclude by raising questions about the blush and embarrassment that await empirical consideration.