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?