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Why Do We Blush?

What makes us blush and why? What purpose does it serve?

3776 day(s) ago

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Weíve all had the experience of doing something stupid in public. The embarrassment causes our cheeks to turn red. This is blushing, and it is a unique human response to social attention that makes us tense or nervous. The social attention is not necessarily bad, because we can blush when someone we secretly adore walks into the same room we are in, or when they smile at us from across a room. Although these examples are not bad, they trigger the same nervous reaction in us. Blushing does not usually happen without being accompanied by a few other bodily changes, such as increased heart rate, dry mouth, and sometimes unsteady hands. Since we canít control when we blush, it is a response governed by our autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls bodily processes that require quick action and canít wait for our brain to make a decision to do it or not.

Embarrassment or other social attention activates our fight-or-flight response, preparing the body for quick action. This is accomplished through the release of the hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline increases our breathing, giving us more oxygen and our heart rate, pushing blood through our veins faster. It also causes the veins and other blood vessels in our face to expand, or dilate. This is what happens when we blush. The blood vessels in our face expand and more blood flows through them, making our face red. Scientists, however, do not know the reason why the body thinks we need more blood in our face. It doesnít seem to have any physiological purpose. This makes scientists believe that blushing is purely for social purposes as a display.

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