The Science Behind Cringing

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I can barely sit through an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm without feeling humiliated for Larry David; now I can blame science when I have to leave the room eight times. In a study on cringing published this week, scientists discovered that “vicarious embarrassment” is linked to the brain’s “pain matrix,” which registers physical as well as mental discomfort; it also tends to fluctuate depending on the viewer’s level of empathy. I guess what they’re trying to say is: if you can sit through an episode of the British Office and not want to cover your eyes, you must be some kind of monster.