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Why is everyone looking at me?

Why is everyone looking at me?

Why didn’t anyone tell me I had spinach between my teeth? That my blouse is planted the wrong way? That my arms open? One good reason for this may be that no one has noticed. The perception of oneself and the perception of others diverge in the event of supposedly embarrassing incidents.

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We overestimate the extent to which others notice what our focus is.

Mr. Dr. Hans Peter Erb,

social psychologist

The effect of light describes this paradox: the feeling that the circle of light is directed at us. In fact, this is not often the case. “We overestimate the extent to which others notice what our focus is,” says Hans-Peter Erb, professor of social psychology at the German Armed Forces’ Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg.

Even positive things rarely attract attention

It feels bad when something makes us uncomfortable. But there is also a kind of positive spotlight effect: when we find it good to be noticed by others. But even then, we rarely get as much attention as we think we get. Professor Earp describes a typical situation for this: “I go for a walk with my wonderful watch and I think everyone sees it. In fact no one really notices it.”

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How can it be explained that we consider things so important that others have to notice them – but those around us usually do not notice them?

“We use our own perception as a broadcaster,” explains Professor Earp. “What affects us personally is the focus, and we generalize that focus to others. However, for others, the focus is not on me as a person, but their focus also on their own behavior. They are just as subject to the influence of the spotlight as I am.”

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However, the effect of light does not affect everyone equally. Professor Earp suspects that those who tend to be shy or socially repressed experience a stronger influence in the spotlight. Because he sees himself in social situations more as central than he really is. However, according to the social psychologist, this applies to everyone: “The effect prevents us from living what we would like to live.”

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Go to the cafe alone? It’s better if everyone doesn’t stare at me. A brightly colored jacket or sheath dress that you look good in is likely to stay in the closet more often because of the light effect. It makes us ask ourselves: Maybe I’m too fat, too old, or too young for this? We fear negative feedback because as social beings we depend on positive feedback from others. I grabbed a sweatshirt.

Practice out of the spotlight – by intentionally noticing you

This is exactly what Professor Earp advises not to do – at least if you want to train yourself away from the influence of the spotlight. “The discomfort goes away when you are accustomed to wearing flashy clothes. When I wear the colored jacket every day, what sets me apart turns out to be on the inside: I don’t notice the jacket that much anymore.”

The social psychologist also offers some advice for unpleasant situations that are more difficult to plan than one’s wardrobe: “It helps to be aware of the effect: not many have noticed. How bad my class is today, for example, or how bad my hair is. And next time I can Of course make up for it: The next lecture will be better again, and tomorrow I’m going out the door with the perfect haircut. It’s not as dramatic as it feels at first.”

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