Friday, 6 June 2014

It's All About Me or You

One of my colleagues rushed up to me in the hallway and said, oh I know how it looks now but give it a week and I will look more like myself.  I think I looked kind of blank because she continued to tell me she had just gotten a hair cut during lunch break and it felt shorter than usual to her.  I frankly had not noticed anything different about her hair.  But I rushed to assure her it and she looked fine.
Another time I was eating in a mall food court; I was living alone for a few months away from family working out a term of study leave.  I'd just gotten my weekly treat...how well I remember this...New York fries and a large diet coke.  I turned with my tray, someone zipped in front of me, the tray shook and my food landed on the floor.  I immediately bent to pick it up and take it to the garbage bin, all the while cheeks burning with embarrassment. I then furtively glanced around thinking at that point that all eyes in the food court would be on me.  Not so, in fact, I could see only one fellow that seemed  to be watching me and he gave me a little smile as if to say hey that's too bad.  Everyone else were minding their own business talking and eating. With being assured that I was not a laughing stock, I proceeded to line up and get my food all over again, sit and eat it, while feeling the redness slowly ebb from my face.  I guess nothing was going to get between me and my fries.
I've just read that both these stories make for good examples of what psychologists call the "spotlight effect".  This begins with the fact that we are the center of our own little universes and we assume everyone else is also as wrapped up in us and our actions as we are.  We therefore greatly exaggerate in our minds how much people are watching and noticing what we are doing. In fact, for the most part, the opposite is true. 
This phenomena has been confirmed in many research studies and I guess it makes sense.  No one is thinking about me as much as I am myself.