What Is The Spotlight Effect In Psychology?

Last Update on February 10, 2022 : Published on February 10, 2022
The spotlight Effect

We all have done something in public that has embarrassed us and the memory of it haunts us till date. This  feeling of embarrassment, when it starts to occur more often than usual, you are probably experiencing the spotlight effect.

What Is The SpotLight Effect?

The spotlight effect is a tendency to overthink and overestimate the amount of time and energy society/other people spend on thinking and noticing you at all times. It almost feels like you have been illuminated by a spot light and your every move is being monitored.

Experiencing a spotlight effect basically feels like everyone is watching you, still remembering your past embarrassing moments and constantly mocking you for the things you have done (which obviously is not true).

What Is The SpotLight Effect

In fact this thought is a mere assumption and trust me, other people do not have time to notice each of your moves. So if you have experienced the spotlight effect, the first thing you need to do is understand that people are not thinking about you all the time.

It might be slightly difficult for you to do so if you have social anxiety. With other exercises you do to manage your symptoms of social anxiety you need to start working on the spotlight effect as well.

The Relationship Between Spotlight Effect And Social Anxiety

The spotlight effect is very, very common in people with issues related to social anxiety. When you have social anxiety you are already hesitant to be in a social gathering because of various reasons.

One of the reasons behind a person with social anxiety not wanting to be in public is that they have a tendency to assume the others are always noticing, talking, mocking or thinking about them.

This preconceived notion that other people’s thoughts about you are always negative and you are in constant scrutiny is the spotlight effect. Social anxiety can foster the spotlight effect, in most cases a reduction in social anxiety can reduce the spotlight effect as well.

Having said that, you still need to take active measures to reduce the effect of the spotlight effect on you.

What’s The Psychology Behind The Spotlight Effect?

The Psychology Behind The Spotlight Effect

According to experts, the spotlight effect is a result of a cognitive bias or an error in reasoning. Naive reasoning plays an important role here. We often pay close attention to our actions and behaviors.

According to us our tiny, invisible to nake eyes flaws are somehow visible to everyone. For example the placement of your teeth or a scar or perhaps a mannerism you think is a flaw of yours.

Now, you take that tiny thing, make it huge in your mind and can swear by god that the other person has noticed it and is thinking about that or probably judging you for that. This kind of thinking or reasoning is called naive reasoning.

Examples Of The Spotlight Effect

Before we look at some common examples of the spotlight effect, let me tell you, people are so engrossed in their own thoughts most of the time that they don’t even notice that you’re around. So, relax honey!

Let’s look at a few examples of the spotlight effect

1. Some minor wardrobe malfunction: You come home from a social gathering and you realise that your pants’ zipper was open or your shirt had a hole in it or some other issues with your clothes. You feel embarrassed and do not want to meet those people again because you have assumed that they witnessed the malfunction and will probably laugh at you or judge you.

2. An incorrect response: This one is very common. You are in a conversation and you suddenly say something that’s completely weird or inappropriate for that situation. You correct yourself, apologize and leave the conversation. But, you can’t stop thinking about how embarrassing that was and probably the whole room heard it and thinks that you’re a jerk!

3. Underestimate yourself: this happens to me a lot. You had a presentation which went well according to others but you noticed a few flaws and you keep thinking about that a lot. You think you’ve made a fool of yourself, everyone will judge you now. When actually people hadn’t even noticed that tiny flow of yours. You’re practically not as bad as you think you are.

How To Overcome The Spotlight Effect?

There are no particular treatment plans or specific therapies only for the spotlight effect but there are a few changes that you can make in your thought process which can help in reducing the spotlight effect.

That’s all folks!

The spotlight effect can have an influence on your behavior and has the potential to crush your self-confidence. It’s on you to remind yourself that no one has the time to notice you all the time. It’s natural to make mistakes and most importantly people forget about things more quickly than you can expect.

I hope this blog helps you understand the spotlight psychology and how you can overcome this self imposed spotlight of judgement and intolerance.

Thanks for reading!

Take care and shut the spotlight off!

About The Author

Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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