Are other people REALLY looking at you?

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
One thing I've noticed about human beings - including myself at times - is that everyone is really worried about how they appear to others. They worry that every little mistake they made is like a HUGE thing, that people notice it, talk about it behind their backs, make fun of them, whatever. It's like an obsession.

I sorta solved this for myself years ago when I realized that the people who are so worried about making a mistake that they never do anything, don't realize that most other people are worried about doing something dumb too, so nobody is really paying attention to anybody else. So, I got over myself and started being concerned about the other people who were shy and worried and made efforts to try to engage with them and help them get over their worries so they could interact naturally. It was amazing to learn how relieved so many of these people were that someone actually came over to talk to them or whatever.

Anyway, here is another study described in David McRaney's book that gives weight to this idea: everybody is so worried about how they appear to everybody else that nobody is paying attention and you might as well relax and just do your thing.

***********************

The Spotlight Effect

THE MISCONCEPTION: When you are around others, you feel as if everyone is noticing every aspect of your appearance and behavior.

THE TRUTH: People devote little attention to you unless prompted to.

You spill a drink at a party. You get a mustard stain on your shirt. Your forehead is breaking out on the day you have to do a presentation.

Oh no. What will people think?

Chances are, they won’t think anything. Most people won’t notice at all, and if they do, they’ll probably disregard and forget your imperfections and faux pas within seconds.

You lose some weight, buy a new pair of pants, and strut through doors expecting some sort of acknowledgment. Perhaps you get a new haircut, or buy a new watch. You spend an extra fifteen minutes in front of the mirror expecting the world to notice. You spend so much time thinking about your own body, your own thoughts and behaviors, you begin to think other people must be noticing too.

The research says they aren’t, at least not nearly as much as you are.

When in a group or public setting, you think every little nuance of your behavior is under scrutiny by everyone else. The effect is even worse if you must stand on a stage or go out with someone for the first time. You can’t help but be the center of your universe, and you find it difficult to gauge just how much other people are paying attention since you are paying attention to you all the time. When you start to imagine yourself in the audience, you believe every little misstep is amplified.

You are not so smart when it comes to dealing with crowds because you are too egocentric.

Fortunately, everyone else is just as egocentric, and they are just as convinced that they are being scrutinized.

The spotlight effect was studied at Cornell in 1996 by Thomas Gilovich, who researched the degree to which people believe their actions and appearance are noticed by others. He had college students put on T-shirts featuring the smiling face of Barry Manilow and then knock on the door to a classroom where other subjects were filling out a questionnaire. When you are late to a class or to work, or walk into a crowded theater or nightclub, you feel as if all eyes are on you, judging and criticizing. These students had to shed their normal clothes for a shirt with a giant Barry Manilow head beaming back out into the world, so Gilovich hypothesized they would feel an especially strong version of the spotlight effect when they had to walk into the classroom.

Each person did this, and then walked over and spoke with the researcher for a moment. The researcher then pulled up a chair and told the embarrassed subject to sit down, but right as they did they were told to stand back up and were then led out for a debriefing. They asked the subjects to estimate how many people noticed their shirt. The people wearing the embarrassing attire figured about half of the people in the room saw it and noticed how awful it was.

When the researchers then asked the people in the classroom to describe the subject, about 25 percent recalled seeing Manilow.

In a situation designed to draw attention, only a quarter of the observers noticed the odd clothing choice, not half.

Gilovich repeated the experiment, but this time allowed the students to pick a “cool” shirt depicting Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Marley, or Martin Luther King Jr.

In this run, the estimates were the same. They thought about half the class saw their awesome shirt. Less than 10 percent did.

This suggests the spotlight effect is strong for both positive and negative images of yourself, but the real world is far less likely to give a shit when you are trying to look cool.

Gilovich has repeated his work on crowded New York streets, and although people felt as if a giant spotlight was shining down illuminating their tiny place in the world and all eyes were upon them, in reality, most people didn’t notice them at all.

The spotlight effect leads you to believe everyone notices when you drive around town in a new, expensive car. They don’t. After all, the last time you saw an awesome car, do you remember who was driving it? Do you even remember the last time you saw an awesome car?

This feeling extends into other situations as well. For instance, if you are playing Rock Band or singing karaoke or doing anything where you feel your actions are being monitored by others, you tend to believe every up and down of your performance is being cataloged and critiqued.

Not so.

You will apologize or make fun of yourself in an attempt to soften the blows, but it doesn’t matter.

In 2001, Gilovich had subjects play a competitive video game and rate how much attention they thought their teammates and opponents were paying to their performance. He found people paid lots of attention to how they themselves were doing, but almost no attention to others. While playing, they felt like everyone else was keeping up with how good they were at the game.

Research shows people believe others see their contributions to conversation as being memorable, but they aren’t. You think everyone noticed when you stumbled in your speech, but they didn’t. Well, unless you drew attention to it by over-apologizing.

The next time you get a pimple on your forehead, or buy a new pair of shoes, or Tweet about how boring your day is, don’t expect anyone to notice. You are not so smart or special.
 

Angchop

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
I was just thinking about this very same thing yesterday. I was explaining to someone that years ago I was horribly insecure and always felt like people were watching and judging me. Until I realized that other people feel the same way and are too concerned with their own insecurities to care about mine. I no longer feel this way, and I too try and engage people I find that do. It's so much easier now. It was very draining with all that negative chatter going on in my head!
 

JonnyRadar

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thanks for posting this Laura. I had felt the same way for a long time as well, and still struggle with it, though not as bad as before.

It is fascinating to see how self-importance holds us back from development, and at the same time how the self-importance of others can be utilized as a tool to learn that our self-importance is, in a way, quite silly.
 

cassandra

Jedi Council Member
This is mostly true for me, but when I'm searching for clues about someone, I can be extremely observant and will notice the faintly stained t-shirt or the new grey hairs, the fingernails, the stutter or blush. Plus I have a really good memory about what people say to me and how they intonate, and often use these details for later anaysis, which although maybe creepy has served me well in the long term. Or so I believe.
If I trust a person, I won't notice what they're wearing at all and relax my guard.
 

Mr.Anderson

Jedi Master
Jonathan
Thanks for posting this Laura. I had felt the same way for a long time as well, and still struggle with it, though not as bad as before.
This is great. I don't have to worry about my hair loss!
 

Beau

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Laura said:
Anyway, here is another study described in David McRaney's book that gives weight to this idea: everybody is so worried about how they appear to everybody else that nobody is paying attention and you might as well relax and just do your thing.
I had that epiphany a few years back. I hit me like a pile of bricks, how self-centered such thinking is. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, that I didn't have to "tailor" myself to what I thought everyone else wanted and just BE myself without the narcissistic need to be what I thought other people would like to gain acceptance. And then it also struck me how strange this behavior is in the sense that even if someone were to make a mistake, it wouldn't be that big of a deal to me. So why do I place such enormous importance on being perfect if I don't care if others make mistakes. It's entirely bizarre!
 

Beau

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
Mr.Anderson said:
This is great. I don't have to worry about my hair loss!
Nor should you! Wouldn't it be ridiculous for someone to give you grief for it? It's not like it's something you have any control over. I doubt you would say anything to someone who was losing their hair. Yet we still have separate rules for how we treat ourselves.
 

NewOrleans

Jedi Master
Great post. It's a relief to get to an older age when vanity seems ridiculous. I had my share. These days I look like last Halloween's pumpkin still on the porch but I'm hoping my smile is still somewhat cute. :D
 

davey72

The Living Force
This is something i have given a lot of thought to for the last couple years, and i totally agree with your conclusion, but the reason i have been thinking about this in the first place is that, for some reason, and certain days more than others, almost everybody is looking, or staring at me. I cannot figure it out. I don't think that i am that attractive nor do i think that i am that odd looking. I do know that it is not my imagination, as i have had friends give me their opinions on this, and when asked, they seem to see it too. Not sure if it is really that important, and should probably be put in the swamp if i wanted it about me, but what would be the cause of this for someone, in general wanting to know this? Do you think that it is possible for people to recognize the good in certain people, or their potential for sto, or something to that effect? Perhaps, if one is being targeted by sts, would people be in the area be getting messages, or thoughts about a certain person they are walking by? It is just very puzzling. Doesnt bother me like it used to.
 
G

Gertrudes

Guest
Thanks for the post Laura. I also used to struggle a lot with how people perceived me, and then I began to realize how that was such a waste of time and energy from my part. Seeing my interactions so strongly tainted by that concern, instead of being led by the purpose of the interaction itself, made me begin to glimpse just how much energy one spends on internal ramblings that do nothing else but hinder the possibility of a productive outcome. It can be incredibly frustrating.
Sorry if this sounds like a bit of a cold practical realization, but that's what's really been helping me.

davey72 said:
I do know that it is not my imagination, as i have had friends give me their opinions on this, and when asked, they seem to see it too. Not sure if it is really that important, and should probably be put in the swamp if i wanted it about me, but what would be the cause of this for someone, in general wanting to know this? Do you think that it is possible for people to recognize the good in certain people, or their potential for sto, or something to that effect? Perhaps, if one is being targeted by sts, would people be in the area be getting messages, or thoughts about a certain person they are walking by? It is just very puzzling. Doesnt bother me like it used to.
Well, people have all sorts of reasons for looking at others, and the probability is that those reasons will rarely match what we may conjecture them to be. That is, unless there is something obvious going on, like wearing a mickey mouse suit. But even then, people are likely to quickly forget it, as corroborated by the Barry Manilow t-shirt experience described in Laura's post.
Maybe you're seeing too much into this davey?
 

Laura

Administrator
Administrator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
davey72 said:
This is something i have given a lot of thought to for the last couple years, and i totally agree with your conclusion, but the reason i have been thinking about this in the first place is that, for some reason, and certain days more than others, almost everybody is looking, or staring at me. I cannot figure it out. I don't think that i am that attractive nor do i think that i am that odd looking.
Maybe you really don't see yourself? Maybe you DO look odd and nobody who is your "friend" will tell you?
 

Voyageur

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
[quote author=Gertrudes]
Thanks for the post Laura. I also used to struggle a lot with how people perceived me, and then I began to realize how that was such a waste of time and energy from my part. Seeing my interactions so strongly tainted by that concern, instead of being led by the purpose of the interaction itself, made me begin to glimpse just how much energy one spends on internal ramblings that do nothing else but hinder the possibility of a productive outcome. It can be incredibly frustrating.
Sorry if this sounds like a bit of a cold practical realization, but that's what's really been helping me.

[/quote]

Speaking of spending energy on worrying; our internal ramblings. It is interesting when perception focuses on smoking - the new social stigma. Because I smoke, if I see smoking, it does not really register, they are doing what they are doing. But to do it oneself, in the past there was a lot of perceptive thinking fears and of course people still judge, more so now. But the energy wasted on worrying about this, when many people don't even bat an eye, has been liberating. For those who you know are judging it now seems to matter less and less. Have been around people who I know, and they know I smoke. But suddenly they will say, I didn't know you smoked, when doing it openly, sometimes they will do this repeatedly every few months :huh:. It is always interesting to see this and they usually get over it pretty fast. Smoking is one area where I just stopped really judging myself and am less concerned with others anti-smoking perceptions, although it took awhile.
 
F

forge

Guest
davey72, i do look really odd. Old and young people often made and are making sarcastic, biting comments, laugh in some suprised mockery "Oh, my God, see that face?", "Waterhead!", "Gahd that's awful". Interesting that again there are women that find this face attractive. That could as well be, because sort of animal magnetism.

I reminded myself few times of my Arabic-looking colleague in 2004. He had dark complexion, darker skin, worked with us in a Caucasian country of white people, often complained how people mishandled and despised him. I almost couldn't believe him, since he was good looking and had Persian features.

The surprised negative remarks of people slowly began to bounce off however after i understood G.'s and Nicoll's explanation that people are mechanical. After i did some tests with crowds i realized that people are complete machines, automatons. I cannot expect them to behave humane in a crowd, where David McRaney's The Spotlight Effect dominates.

Don't care for most of the time, their remarks became remote have little effect, because i'm concentrating on esoteric readings i always carry, when traveling. The effect of accumulating esoteric knowledge and understanding urges me to try live up to Work expectations and the
The Spotlight Effect is a primitive Predator-mind mechanism, such as people's focus on animal-level satisfactions and how those are woven into their auto-associative scheme of thoughts. I wrote in so many words, because this really bothered me for like 38 years, was hard to get out.
 

Mr.Anderson

Jedi Master
Heimdallr said:
Mr.Anderson said:
This is great. I don't have to worry about my hair loss!
Nor should you! Wouldn't it be ridiculous for someone to give you grief for it? It's not like it's something you have any control over. I doubt you would say anything to someone who was losing their hair. Yet we still have separate rules for how we treat ourselves.
I am now at the age that vanity is very ridiculous, I was really just joking about my hair loss.
 

davey72

The Living Force
Laura said:
davey72 said:
This is something i have given a lot of thought to for the last couple years, and i totally agree with your conclusion, but the reason i have been thinking about this in the first place is that, for some reason, and certain days more than others, almost everybody is looking, or staring at me. I cannot figure it out. I don't think that i am that attractive nor do i think that i am that odd looking.
Maybe you really don't see yourself? Maybe you DO look odd and nobody who is your "friend" will tell you?
Honestly, this is the conclusion i have come to. There must be something going on, but i have wasted so much energy, and made myself so self conscious thinking about it that i finally have stopped myself from trying to figure it out. I think the important question may be, why do i care so much, which brings us back to your first post. I just thought i would weigh in, and see what orhers thoughts on this were.
 
Top Bottom