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The Spotlight Effect

The effect of the spotlight is the overestimation of the attention of others to our person. Simply put, people believe that everyone looks at them, sees their every flaw, every mistake. It should be noted that this is indeed an effect and not a deviation or disturbance of brain function. The effect of the spotlight is quite common to all people without exception. People believe that their interlocutors remember what they said, how nervous and stumbled they were. In fact, few people will ever notice it if individuals do not bring it to their attention by excessive apology or in some other way.

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Thomas Gilovich was the first scientist who explored the spotlight effect (McRaney, 2011, p. 263). His experiment involved a group of students who wore T-shirts with Barry Manilow smiling face in front of some other students, who were filling out a worksheet in the room. It turned out that those students who wore the embarrassing T-shirts were convinced that half of the people in the room noticed the awful picture of Manilow. However, after T. Gilovich asked that students from the room whether they saw the picture on the T-shirts, only a quarter of them recalled it. Therefore, the experiment showed that the effect of the spotlight affected only those who tried to look cool or was embarrassed.

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An example of the spotlight effect could be the situation when a person walks along the street eating a hot dog. Suddenly, ketchup drops out and makes a big red stain on the white shirt. IThe individual thinks that all the people on the street saw his fail. He tries to clean the stain and moves faster making the people observe not the stain on the shirt but his strange behavior. Therefore, the person, influenced by the spotlight effect, creates discomfort for himself thinking that people will make fun of his fail. However, in reality, such situation is not memorable for the others.

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