Why Do We Blush?

Only human blush when embarrassed? Ever wonder what causes it? Find out here.

I cannot control my girlish blush,

My color comes and goes,

I redden to my finger tips,

And sometimes to my nose.

In these few lines, famed English author Rudyard Kipling accurately covered the main characteristics of the uniquely human trait of blushing. It's something that we've all done, usually while in the midst of situations that are decidedly uncomfortable. But, why do we blush?

Blushing involves a sudden reddening of the face, neck and ears. Along with that normally goes an avoidance of eye contact with others and a glowing or tingling sensation over the entire body. The person blushing may even have heart palpitations or a real feeling of fear. Blushing seems to be more readily manifested among the young and inexperienced. The more worldly wise we become, the less we blush. It has also been observed that women blush more readily than men do.

Blushing is an involuntary action that is caused by "╦ťoverlapping mental attitudes, producing embarrassment and inability to function.' Interestingly even people who are deaf and blind blush. Helen Keller, deaf and blind from babyhood, blushed readily. One researcher commented on Keller's blushing as follows:

Her blushing can have no relation to looks or words of disapproval, connected either with her appearance or conduct; yet she blushes just as girls do who see and hear, from the same causes, over the same parts of the body, and with the same experience of tingling.

A person can, in fact, blush when alone if they think about or read something that is embarrassing to them. These facts, then, continue to confound those who attempt to explain this phenomena.

The physical actions involved in blushing are a little easier to quantify. A confused state of mind acts upon the sympathetic nervous system. From there, the vasodilators are stimulated which causes the peripheral capillaries to expand. As a result, more blood flows to the surface of the face and neck, resulting in the reddening of the face and neck.

Animals do not blush. The reason? They are not endowed with the ability to think conceptually or to consider moral issues. Herein, therefore, lies a major dilemna for those who hold to evolution. If man evolved from lower animals, why do we alone blush?

Blushing may be instigated by any number of things. An indecent or immodest occurance, an awkward situation, a foolish blunder, or even praise that makes us stand out may trigger the blush response. We cannot control when and how often we blush. Nor should we want to. It is one of those unique characteristics that makes us human. It can, in fact, serve as a protection to us - serving as a guard to the conscience. Violating our inbuilt sense of right and wrong, may cause us to blush and this may, in turn, warn us to get back on track.

So, we need not feel embarrassed about blushing. It is a unique gift that we, as humans, have. Let's be thankful for it.

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