Take a deep breath. Stop obsessing. It probably wasn't as bad as you think. Not nearly. A growing body of research shows that far fewer people notice our gaffes than we believe as we pace the floor in private, going over and over the faux pas. And those who do notice judge us less harshly than we imagine. In a series of groundbreaking studies over the last two years, psychologists have shown that the "spotlight effect," as they call it, is a universal experience that distorts our egocentric notion about the degree to which people in groups, like parties and work gatherings, pay attention to us.
Benedict Carey, "It's not all about you," Los Angeles Times, January 13, 2002
New studies say you get away with more than you think.
In a series of experiments, one of which subjected college students to the embarrassment of wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Barry Manilow, researchers conclude that people overestimate how much others pay attention to them. It's the spotlight effect, says psychologist Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University in New York. It's why you feel like a public failure if you stand in the corner or spill a drink at a party.
"You can relax," Gilovich said. "Many fewer people notice these and other embarrassing circumstances than you might think. ... People tend to think the social spotlight shines more brightly on them than it does."
Malcolm Ritter, "Researchers: People Don't Notice Your Shortcomings As Much As You Think," Associated Press, August 12, 1996
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