The Bottom Line: People are Not Paying As Much Attention to You as You Think!

We have all done something embarrassing: tripped on our own feet, spilled a drink on our clothes, dropped something; we were so embarrassed and agonized over it for hours or days. Well good news! Next time something like this happens don’t worry about it. The number of people who noticed is a lot smaller than you think; most people are not paying much attention. This phenomenon is called the “Spotlight Effect”. “Being that one is constantly in the center of one’s own world, an accurate evaluation of how much one is noticed by others has shown to be uncommon. The reason behind the spotlight effect comes from the innate tendency to forget that although one is the center of one’s own world, one is not the center of everyone else’s.” Spotlight Effect

“The Spotlight effect was coined in 2000 by Thomas Gilovich and colleagues.In their first two studies, they had participants put on a shirt with a big picture of Barry Manilow and then walk briefly into a room filled with students sitting at a table facing the door.” After a brief interaction, the students wearing the shirt left the room and were asked how many of the students who saw them would remember them wearing a Barry Manilow shirt.  What did they find? The results are below.


Source: Psychology Today

The actual number of students who remembered Barry Manilow was a lot smaller than they anticipated. The same thing goes for speech and the embarrassing things we say. The results are the same.

So what is the lesson:  “No need to blush and run the next time you embarrass yourself since you are probably the only person who was really paying attention to your mishap. But you also have to give people a break when they don’t notice your new shirt or compliment you on that really smart comment you made during a meeting. They aren’t paying as close of attention to your appearance and actions as you are because they are too busy paying attention to themselves.” Psychology Today