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The Science of Awkwardness


The Science of Awkwardness

Sources and extra links below!
me on twitter:
me on instagram:
music by

Embarrassment and prosociality:

Empathetic Embarrassment:

Cringe subreddit:

awkward hug gifs:


The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (on YouTube):

“Why Are We Morbidly Curious?” (related Vsauce video):

social rejection and physical pain:

Social awkwardness and genetics:

Psychology experiments that test the breaking of social norms are called “breaching experiments”:

Stage Fright:


Oxytocin and fear/anxiety:

negativity bias:

more negative emotions than positive:

Eleanor Roosevelt quote:

“in you 20s and 30s…” quote:

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (on YouTube):

“sonder” gif:

Embracing awkwardness: How to defeat social anxiety and embarrassment | Melissa Dahl

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Why is it awkward to listen to a recording of your own voice? What makes us cringe? For the last few years, Melissa Dahl, co-founder of's popular social science site Science of Us, has been digging for answers. The culmination of her research is 'cringe theory'—a psychological explanation of why we find awkward moments so painful. A central part of that theory is what psychologist Philippe Rochat at Emory University calls the irreconcilable gap. Dahl explains: What makes us cringe is when the 'you' you think you’re presenting to the world clashes with the 'you' the world is actually seeing, and that makes us uncomfortable because we like to think that we’re coming off in a certain way. Are you not as suave as you thought? Did your voice just pop? Did you just sit on a whoopee cushion—or worse still, was there no whoopee cushion? It shatters our sense of certainty about who we are, and what others think of us. These experiences may seem devastating, but Dahl says we can train ourselves to think of an awkward moment as a piece of useful information that can help us better understand ourselves, and see the funny side of our bruised egos. Here, she explains how she challenged herself to get on stage and live out one of her social nightmares, and how she came out the other end more confident and connected to other people than before. Melissa Dahl's new book is Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness.


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Most of the time it’s like we kind of have social scripts to follow; you come in here, you say hello, and then if something goes out of the ordinary it shakes us up and makes us feel uncertain. And there is a long stretch of scientific literature on this dating back to the 1960s.

There’s this classic study where they shocked people with these little electric shocks and they asked people if they preferred shocks when they knew they were coming or if they preferred shocks that just came out of nowhere, and people would rather know when the little painful shock was coming.

Which seemed interesting to me because you would think that the expectation might make it worse, but we like predictability, I guess. I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s interesting that sometimes we call awkwardness painful or excruciating—it adds an interesting layer to that.
So a big part of my “cringe theory”—that's kind of what I’m calling it—is that there is a difference—we don’t like to pay attention to it very much, or I don’t—but there is a difference often between the way that you see yourself and the way that you think you are presenting yourself to the world, and the way that the rest of the world is perceiving you.

And something that really helped unlock this for me was the idea—it’s almost like a clichéd thing—that people hate the sound of their own voices or people don’t like looking at recordings of themselves. In particular, the thing about people hating the sound of their own voices is a great example of this because your voice really does sound different to you than the way everyone else is hearing you.

So when we hear somebody talk you’re kind of hearing somebody else through the air, but when I’m hearing myself talk I’m hearing myself through the air and through the bones of my own skull, which actually transmit the sounds differently and makes my voice sound lower than it actually is.

So it’s a really common complaint, people are like—they listen to their own voices and they’re like, “Oh my gosh it’s so much higher than I thought it was!” That’s always what I think about when I hear my own voice played back.

And I think that this is a central part of my theory about what makes us cringe is when the 'you' you think you’re presenting to the world clashes with the 'you' the world is actually seeing, and that makes us uncomfortable because we like to think that we’re coming off in a certain way and it’s just like, “Oh no, that’s what you think of me? That’s how you see me?” And I think that’s never going to go away. There’s always going to be—there’s this psychologist Philippe Rochat at Emory University who has a name for this, he calls this the “irreconcilable gap”. And so he really thinks this, it’s even in the name—it’s never going to go away, there’s always going to be this gap between the way you perceive yourself and the way others perceive you. And I think that’s at the heart of what we call awkward moments or awkwardness—kind of that uncomfortable feeling that you’re cringing at yourself or at somebody else.

It takes a while but you can start to train yourself to think of that as a useful piece of information. If you try to negotiate a raise or negotiate a promotion at work or something, it makes us uncomfortable

Why being awkward makes you more likely to succeed

Psychologist Ty Tashiro, author of Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially awkward and Why That's Awesome, explains why awkward people are more likely to demonstrate striking talent.


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The Science of the Friend Zone

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Bateman's Principle:

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Marshall Fine description of the friend zone:

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The Upside of Being Awkward

The science of awkwardness. Hi.
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Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, by Melissa Dahl

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We can all be pretty awkward. Right? Here we cover the psychology of awkwardness. But it's not all bad news. It’s a good thing that we’re aware of ourselves and care about how others perceive us. Feeling awkward can push us to sharpen our social skills. 👌

BrainCraft was created by Vanessa Hill (@nessyhill) and is brought to you by PBS Digital Studios. Talking psychology, neuroscience & why we act the way we do.

This episode was written by Bahar Gholipour, filmed by Dominique Taylor, edited, hosted and produced by Vanessa Hill.

Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, by Melissa Dahl

Emergence of self-awareness and co-awareness in babies:
Rochat, P., Broesch, T., & Jayne, K. (2012). Social awareness and early self-recognition. Consciousness and cognition, 21(3), 1491-1497.

Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(2), 211.

Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(2), 211.

Brooks, A. W. (2014). Get excited: Reappraising pre-performance anxiety as excitement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(3), 1144. ttps://

Awkward: The science of why we're socially awkward and why that's awesome by Ty Tashiro

If You Are Socially Awkward, WATCH THIS! | How To Overcome Social Awkwardness


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Social awkwardness is completely normal and there is nothing wrong with you, it’s only a lack of practice that’s it so stop judging yourself and being way to hard that you need to be. Practice socializing every single day and take note of what you could improve on and repeat it.
Challenge yourself to talk to 2 complete strangers everyday for the next 30 days. It can be as simple as asking for the time or directions. As you progress through this exercise you’ll notice that awkwardness becoming a normal thing and it subsiding.

If you have any tips which helped you in social situations, please leave them in the comments below.


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Weird Things Your Body Does When You're Around Your Crush

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[From the Archives] A Theory of Awkwardness with Melissa Dahl

Melissa Dahl is a senior editor covering health and psychology for New York‘s The Cut. In 2014, she cofounded New York’s popular social science site, Science of Us. Her work has appeared in Elle, Parents, and Her new book, Cringeworthy, is her first book.

In our conversation, Melissa shares with us:

How awkwardness comes from self-consciousness and uncertainty
How doing improv can help you become less awkward
How we create more drama with ourselves than necessary
What we can do to become more one with our awkwardness
Why the “irreconcilable gap” can lead to awkwardness
How to find the “growing edge” and challenge yourself to have more awkward conversations

For the full show notes and links relevant to this episode, go to:

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The Science of Awkwardness

Sources and extra links below!
me on twitter:
me on instagram:
music by

Embarrassment and prosociality:

Empathetic Embarrassment:

Cringe subreddit:

awkward hug gifs:


The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (on YouTube):

“Why Are We Morbidly Curious?” (related Vsauce video):

social rejection and physical pain:

Social awkwardness and genetics:

Psychology experiments that test the breaking of social norms are called “breaching experiments”:

Stage Fright:


Oxytocin and fear/anxiety:

negativity bias:

more negative emotions than positive:

Eleanor Roosevelt quote:

“in you 20s and 30s…” quote:

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (on YouTube):

“sonder” gif:

Why Are Things Cute?

Watch puppies LIVE on YouTube:

Thanks to my AWESOME mom for scanning and sending pictures of myself when I was younger. You RULE, Mom!

cute etymology:

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cute and psychology:

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Articles on the science of cute:

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The Science of Awkwardness and How to Overcome it

//The Science of Awkwardness and how to overcome it//
Blog Post:

According to Merriam-Webster, awkwardness is defined as:

1. Lacking Dexterity or skill
2. Lacking ease or grace
3. Lacking social grace and assurance

But what is it really? I’m going to get a big head right now and swear to paint-by-number Jesus (he’s hanging on my wall now) that everyone reading this has experienced a level of awkwardness (embarrassment) in one way or another. Can it be shyness, embarrassment or perhaps simply feeling out of place? To myself, I feel the most appropriate way to look at awkwardness is to realize that not only is awkwardness a normal everyday occurrence in life, but awkwardness is nothing more than one or more people pretending one or more of the above items in our definition is not present in a situation.

And you know what? There is nothing wrong with that, however, what would our lives look like if we chose to stop responding to the negative social pressures and stigmas of being “different” and simply chose to be “ourselves?” Would we still feel the negative effects of social pressure if we realized that awkwardness is often less about what others think and more about what we, ourselves perceive? In all honesty, this is in fact what is really going on, we quite often believe there is this great big spotlight on us, highlighting our every flaw and indiscretion. I know some of you are laughing but it’s true. Many of us develop a sense of external observance from others akin to the movie The Truman Show.

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So, lets have a discussion! Make sure you smash that LIKE button as you comment below.
• What are some ways you have been able to overcome your own awkwardness?
• What is a personal example of how your entire perception was changed simply by giving another person permission to be an imperfect person?
• Finally, what is the way you notice others experiencing a level of awkwardness and social anxiety as a result of being around you? Yes, YOU! This has likely happened to you more than you realize, once you begin to think about it. I assure you.

Overcoming awkwardness is not something we can overcome with a magic pill or through simple overnight action. Overcoming awkwardness is a process filled with achieving small accomplishments. Moving past social anxiety can have some difficulty involved but the reward far outweighs the cost by providing a pathway to achieving a higher level of achievement in one of the core mental attributes for success to possess: CONFIDENCE! Confidence is the root of reproducible success. Confidence is often what sets the leaders apart from the followers. Confidence shows not only a history of reproducible success, but confidence also shows a measurable level of evolutionary success through progressive failure.
Let’s smash our way right past our awkwardness and social anxiety! Through a little bit of pain and initial discomfort, we can lessen the effects of social pressure by facing our fears head-on and not accepting the regular status quo we’ve grown used to. We can do this!

You’re Welcome. Internet.

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The secret to overcoming shyness is to remember that others are, beneath the differences, always substantially the same as we are. If you like our films, take a look at our shop (we ship worldwide):
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“Because shyness can grip us in such powerful ways, it’s tempting to think of it as an immutable part of our emotional make-up, with roots that extend far into our personality and perhaps biology – and that we would be incapable of ever extirpating. But in truth, shyness is based on a set of ideas about the world that are eminently amenable to change through a process of reason because they are founded on some touchingly malleable errors of thought.…”
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The Science of Love


It turns out the brain in love looks strikingly similar to one on drugs like cocaine! Find out what drives love, and why we simply love being in love.

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Social Anxiety Symptoms & Treatment

Social Anxiety symptoms & treatment: Overcome social anxiety now for FREE with Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Tapping.

Download your FREE Social Confidence Starter Kit here:

I am Seb, an ex social anxiety disorder sufferer. I've been coaching socially anxious clients since 2009 and have worked with hundreds of people, helping them overcome their social anxiety and feel comfortable, relaxed, and at ease in social situations.

I have a popular podcast in iTunes where I interview psychologists, coaches, healers, best-selling authors, scientists, and psychotherapists for their best social anxiety solutions (social anxiety solutions is also the name of the podcast - and here is where you can download episodes if you don't have iTunes - And I run an online Social Confidence Community.

This video is a super generalized summary to illustrate that social anxiety is a program that your brain runs based upon perception. And that the perception is governed by beliefs. And that these beliefs can be changed. Once you change the beliefs responsible for the perception of danger, social anxiety is gone. There is none. Zero.

Many people have asked me about the ending of this video. Great, but it's not that easy! How do you change your beliefs?! You can't just do that.

And they are right.

A belief is a thought or an idea you're emotionally connected to, as a result of conditioning and painful life experiences. And just changing your thoughts won't work.
Saying to yourself I am good enough won't do that. Not even when you repeat it a 1000 times. In fact, it will just have your inner voice go no you're not!.

Social anxiety isn't a logical problem. And therefore You need to address things on an emotional level in order to have your beliefs shift completely.

Once you do, you can completely overcome your social anxiety. I bet that's hard to believe for you if you've been struggling for a long time (and, pretty everyone has been struggling for a long time) and you've tried things.

But what if what you tried hasn't been the right approach for you? Or, what if that's only been mildly helpful, and there are ways that are far more effective?

I struggled massively to overcome my own social anxiety. I changed my thoughts. I faced my deepest fears (from approaching women, to purposely embarrassing myself by wearing red lipstick, to public speaking, to purposely getting myself rejected in busy shopping malls), I did NLP, Hypnosis, timeline therapy, affirmations, visualizations, challenging my thoughts, etc. Nothing worked. Until I found EFT - a silly looking technique to rapidly release excessive negative emotions (you know, the shame, insecurity, worthlessness, fear, anxiety etc that we struggle with so much).

That was the technique that made the difference. It has then been a long path of trying to figure out how to apply that technique to overcome my social anxiety because mine was complex and severe. But thanks to help of EFT tapping and some brilliant therapist I've now been anxiety-free for years. And I've been sharin this message since 2009 (see my first video!).

I also have video testimonials of former clients who overcame their social anxiety. Imagine that, people who actually share they beat it too, not your typical thing to see on youtube. But they've become so at ease with themselves, and they don't care anymore what others think that they're willing to share. Very inspiring. And again, hover a hundred interviews with PhD's, best selling authors, psychologists and psychotherapists on my podcast whop all also rave about this (and other) techniques.

There's a whole world you don't know about when it comes to solutions to your social anxiety. There's really a way out of it. Don't give up, suspend your disbelief, break your skepticism by giving this a try. I have a ton of free videos, and I offer 10 free videos series where I guide you through EFT tapping so you can FEEL it work for you. Along with an Ebook where I write how I beat my SA and what 4 steps to take to resolve your own. It's here (

There's a way out of it. And this doesn't involve forcefully facing your fears. It's far more gentle and many, many times more effective than the outdated approaches mainstream tells you (change your thoughts, be mindful, face your fears progressively - which has it's merits, just quite ineffective compared to this, and also
doesn't yield results for 40-50% of people).

Do some research, check out what I've been putting out, and do yourself a massive favor: give this try. Let me say it better: give this a committed try.

All the best,



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