Spinach in the teeth – new publication in Cortex

We are very happy to share that our paper “Spinach in the teeth: how ego- and allocentric perspectives modulate neural correlates of embarrassment in the face of others’ public mishaps” has now been published in Cortex. The paper is part of the Special Issue “Understanding Others” and we compared to types of observers’ perspectives on others mishaps:

  • How strong is your vicarious embarrassment? (egocentric)
  • How strong do you think is the protagonist’s embarrassment (allocentric) 

Using fMRI we show that the perspective matters depending on the type of mishap. There are mishaps, where the protagonist is aware about the blunder:

And there are mishaps, where the protagonist is not aware about the mishap:

Both types of embarrassing situations have unique affordances for observers. In the first, one can easily share the embarrassment and thereby simulate the emotional experience of the protagonist. In the second, this is not possible as the protagonist does not feel anything (aka “Spinach in the teeth”). We here dissociate regions within the brain’s mentalizing network that contribute to a rather spontaneous (ego) vs. a rather deliberate and motivated act of understanding other’s mental states (allo) in the context of vicarious embarrassment.

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