Posts Tagged ‘Social Anxiety’

Reader, Do People Actually Know How You Feel? Welcome to Your Tape…

April 17th, 2017 6 comments

I recently got into this Netflix original called 13 Reasons Why. It’s an adaptation of a book with the same name that was probably on your summer “to read” booklist in middle school. It tells a story of a high school girl named Hannah who commits suicide and releases a set of cassette tapes to the people who were “instrumental” to her death. I put instrumental in quotation marks because we don’t really know what happened and we all know that memory could be untrustworthy; but that’s for another blog (This link will take you to another blog that talks about Confabulation). The question is why is this relevant in a blog about cognitive psychology?

Hannah from 13 Reasons Why

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What Was That? I Can’t Remember What You Said, I Was Next-In-Line

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Don’t You Hate When This Happens?

Imagine it’s the first day of classes for the semester. Your professor announces to the class that you are going to do an icebreaker activity to get to know each other. There are probably a few groans and a little bit of fear from the shyer students. You must tell the class your name, your class year, where you’re from, and a fun fact about yourself. The dread sets in as you panic and try to think of something interesting. You don’t want everyone to think you’re lame or a weirdo. You spend the whole time everyone else is talking trying to think of what to say and finally it’s your turn: “Hi my name is Emma, I’m a senior, I’m from Jacksonville, Florida, and, um, I can lick my elbow.” Now you wonder if maybe that was a little too interesting, while the person sitting next to you talks about his summer in Belize. Or was it Nicaragua? You can’t really remember. Actually you can’t quite recall what any of the people before you said. You were so focused on your own presentation that you did not pay attention to what other people said. This is called the next-in-line effect.

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You’re so Vain, You Probably Think Everyone is Thinking About You: The Spotlight Effect

April 16th, 2017 2 comments

You chugged your normal two cups of this coffee this morning, so you decide you should run to the bathroom quickly before your 10:00 a.m. meeting. You turn on the sink to wash your hands, but as you turn the handle the water sprays everywhere. You stare down to realize the splash has created a huge water stain on the front of your pants. Frantically, you dab the water stain with paper towels, but finally decide there is no way the stain will dry before your meeting. As you walk into the room, you feel like everyone’s staring at you. You look down at the floor and quickly walk to your chair, but can feel your cheeks turning red with embarrassment. You are certain that everyone else in the room is thinking about you. A few minutes later, you might find yourself still worried about what others are thinking, hoping that your colleagues won’t remember this in a few days.
How you might feel imagine everyone is staring at you as a result of the spotlight effect.


Moments like these, when you assume that everyone is thinking about you, are common in everyday life. This phenomenon of overestimating how much other people focus on your own appearance and behaviors is called the spotlight effect. Read more…

The Fat Lady is Singing, but Nobody is Listening: The Spotlight Effect

April 12th, 2017 No comments

by Sam Barry

It’s the eighth grade. It seems like the day will go well: you wake up on time, choose something to wear, and go about your morning routine. Until you look into a mirror for the first time and realize that there’s an enormous zit, bright red, on your nose! When you arrive at school, you can feel everyone’s eyes upon you–actually, on your zit. Their judgment feels as tangible as the zit itself. We’ve all felt that way before. We’ve all felt that we are at the center of everyone else’s criticism due to some small flaw or social misstep. But no matter how embarrassed you feel, one thing seems to be consistently true: they probably never even noticed. This overestimation of the extent to which others notice our shortcomings is known as the spotlight effect.

The first empirical evidence for the spotlight effect was presented in 2000 by Gilovich, Medvec, and Savitsky. Participants were asked to don a potentially embarrassing T-shirt (it was a Barry Manilow shirt­­–is Barry Manilow embarrassing?) and then enter a room with the other participants. Those wearing the shirt were asked how many people they thought had noticed the shirt, and this was compared to the number of people who actually did notice. By now you can probably guess the result: people overestimated the number of other participants who would take note of Barry Manilow (ah, music puns). Similar results were observed with a non-embarrassing T-shirt, such as one depicting Bob Marley or Martin Luther King, Jr (Gilovich, Medvec, & Savitsky, 2000). The spotlight effect can also apply in situations of group discussion, where people believe that the importance of their contributions to the discussion are greater than they actually are. This was measured by a round of “who said what, who said the most” across participants, and lo and behold, the spotlight effect was observed once again (Gilovich, Medvec, & Savitsky 2000). The spotlight effect can be found with any kind of deviation from a personal norm, such as diminished athletic performance, a bad hair day, or new clothing (Gilovich, Kruger, & Medvec, 2001). But why might this happen, and what are the explanations that could account for it? Read more…

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