To err is human: Embarrassment, communication apprehension, attachment, and attribution styles

Date of Completion

January 2002


Speech Communication




Three survey design studies (ns = 258, 213, and 91) examined relationships among embarrassment, attachment, communication apprehension, and attribution styles, including a newer measure of embarrassment triggers (Sabini, Siepmann, Stein, & Meyerowitz, 2000). The research also examined how accurately audiences perceive public speakers' coping/competence abilities and concerns in public speaking courses. In general, individuals with dismissing and secure attachment patterns reported less embarrassment than those with fearful and preoccupied patterns, regardless of the embarrassment trigger. These studies also found that embarrassment was significantly predicted by the anxiety dimension of attachment, but not by the avoidance dimension. Further, the two embarrassability measures (Sabini et al. and a revised version of Modigliani, 1968) were independently and differentially associated with other personality variables. This research replicated many of the findings of Withers, Sheehan, and Buck (2001), including significant increases in speaker coping/competence and significant decreases in speakers' self-concern and performance concern over time. Overall, the results lend insight into the nature of embarrassment and suggest some intriguing avenues for future research. ^