Category Archives: Psychological blind spots

Spotlight effect

Our mind can either be our best friend or our worst enemy, depending on how we use it. When we develop an awareness of our potential blind spots we will be better able to navigate through life without our mind playing tricks on us.  Life is a Laboratory is dedicated to helping readers make the most of their lives and psychological blind spots can distract or derail us from our goals.  Therefore an understanding of the various psychological blind spots is important.  The first of these I want to discuss is the Spotlight Effect.

All people, but especially those with social anxiety, are very focused on themselves. We are very aware of ourselves, our actions and our appearance and believe everyone else is just as aware.

The “spotlight effect” refers to the tendency to think that more people notice something about you than they do.  Research by Thomas Gilovich (Professor of Psychology at Cornell University) and colleagues (2000) gave the spotlight effect it’s name.  So why do we think everyone’s paying attention to us? Gilovich and colleagues suggest its because we are so focused on ourselves. We are acutely aware of our own appearance and actions, and we have trouble realising other people might not be as focused on us.

The essential point: No need to blush and hide 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 dress 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!