Have you ever felt like everyone was watching you? A most unpleasant feeling of paranoia, mixed with guilt, which may seem absurd, but which in truth is not incongruous. Many studies are even dedicated to what, far from a subjective impression, has everything of the familiar psychological phenomenon.
The phenomenon, and more precisely cognitive bias. This singular bias, well known to experts, is called the spotlight effect. In Shakespeare’s language, the spotlight effect. It has been more than twenty years since this term was first used across the Atlantic in the research of Thomas Gilovich and Kenneth Savitsky. And the most introverted among you know well how horrifying it is.
And this cognitive bias is even more complex than one might think.
What is the spotlight effect?
The spotlight effect, like all biases, is a subjective distortion of reality according to one’s own feelings and point of view. This feeling is battered by an obvious form of social pressure and anxiety. This is why this phenomenon is readily declined from private to professional life. And of course, it rarely relates to completely positive experiences and thoughts.
This is the characteristic of social anxiety, which sometimes spins to the unreasonable. As stated by the website Very Well Mind, “Social anxiety is much more than just nervousness: it reflects differences in brain activity and diverse reactions to your environment. With social anxiety, you may know that your feelings are irrational, but you can’t change how you feel.”
“We are always more sensitive to what we see ourselves, and we are much less at the center of the attention of others than at the center of our own. We underestimate how much we are not the center of the world, especially in unpleasant or embarrassing situations where we imagine that everyone notices it, “decrypts the teacher and consultant Olivier Sibony to the site of the job guide Welcome to the jungle.
This can lead to discomfort, worry, and shame. Normal in a society where everyone has the impression of depending on the gaze of others and their judgments. This does not help to increase self-confidence, nor to encourage the strength of initiative, audacity, personal fulfillment.
This is why welcome to the jungle continues, this bias is particularly intense in certain periods of our lives. Like adolescence. “Situations of social anxiety are probably much more noticeable by teenagers, it’s an age when peer pressure is very strong,” says Olivier Sibony.
And yet, Healthline magazine recalls, the spotlight effect is above all “a mistake of reasoning” associated “with one’s own needs, responsibilities and the aspects of life that matter most to us.” In fact, “this bias often results in observations that are not entirely accurate.” Nevertheless, knowing this does not prevent us from dragging behind us this nagging phenomenon that weighs a lot.
How to control this bias?
To this dull impression of being observed in our, every move is intertwined a similar sensation: this disappointment when others do not seem to notice what has changed in us. Our hairstyle, our look, our glasses. If this seems contradictory (seeking the gaze rather than fleeing it), it is clear that we are again expressing our dependence on the gaze of others.
And in this case, to its accession. In the end, it comes in with the same issue: social pressure. As this study from the online magazine Psychology Today states, “we often feel like we’re in the spotlight and people notice a lot about how we look, but a lot of details about how we look invisible, and people only notice and encode limited amounts of information about each other.”
In short, concludes the specialized journal, “we care about what people see”. Trying to emancipate oneself from this anxiety is a good first step towards better control of this cognitive bias that can generate complexes and anxiety. The most important thing, welcome to the Jungle notes, is to try to soothe yourself. Feel more compassion for oneself, accept one’s emotions, even the most negative, as well as one’s imperfections.
The specialized site Very Well Mind picks up some additional tips if you suffer from this unfortunate bias: talk to a therapist or doctor about your nervousness to discuss potential treatment options, such as talk therapy, in order to be better able to manage social anxiety.
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