Why we assume people are looking at us

Ever feel like people around you are watching you, but when you look straight at them, they have their attention fixed elsewhere?

That may just be the spotlight effect at play -- a phenomenon in which people perceive that they are being noticed more than they really are.

Human beings are the center of their own world, but they tend to forget they're not the center of everyone else's. We go to great lengths to look good for social functions and so forth, but unless we're planning to give, say, a speech or toast, there's no reason to assume all eyes will be on us all the time.

Of course, things may happen that can cause the spotlight to be on you. For example, you may slip while walking across the room, or you may be wearing very eccentric clothing that may prompt people to direct their attention to you.

The way I see it, the spotlight effect is akin to being in a heightened state of self-consciousness. One might assume that everyone will notice her torn shirt. Unless someone has a reason to stay focused on you -- say, thr guy is checking you out -- he's unlikely to spot it.

As noted in prior posts, many guys I know tend to assume that women are watching them at the gym. It that makes them feel better, more power to them. But unless they make repeated eye contact with the women (e.g. they catch the women staring), there's no reason to think the women are checking them out.

Had you ever heard of the spotlight effect before? Do you see it play out in your life? How?

1 comment:

Priscilla King said...

Women who don't want to do the asking learn to stare at a man just until he notices us, then look away quickly, then look at him again a few minutes later, this time make eye contact for one second, etc., etc., until he approaches us. Men should just bear in mind that some women also look at a man just long enough to be sure that he's not someone else, or may even be looking at something behind him. So "being checked out" doesn't count until the woman holds eye contact and smiles.

Some people do have certain effects on traffic. I've noticed that although I've frosted guys who thought they were more attractive than I thought they were, and enjoyed dates with quiet ordinary-looking chaps, the quiet ordinary men used to tend not to call back. The men I've dated for any length of time have always been head-turners who thought they had one major flaw, which may or may not have been obvious to others (e.g. someone who *used to* be fat). The ones who *did not* get stared at, on their own, weren't used to it and found they did not really enjoy being seen with a top-heavy date.

If you are an eye-catching person, due to top-heaviness, height, albinism, melanism, resembling a celebrity or actually being one, etc....it's a bore. Some days you want to fade into the background and those are guaranteed to be the days when people not only stare but run up and talk at you. You learn to cultivate a movie-star-incognito manner, for which some people hate you, because overall it's the easiest way to deflect the stares!

So, if someone else catches your eye, the polite thing you can do is train yourself *not* to stare unless you have some legitimate reason to approach the person.