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The Spotlight Effect

The Spotlight Effect refers to our tendency to think that other people are watching us more closely than they actually are.

Have you ever had a stain or your top, or a tear in your trousers? It can feel like everyone around is staring. But, they’re probably not:

One set of studies by Thomas Gilovich1 had a student wear a yellow shirt with a photo of Barry Manilow on the front. The participant was asked to walk in a room filled with fellow pupils. When asked, the participant greatly over estimated how many people would notice the shirt — the estimate was over 50%. In reality, fewer than 20% of their classmates noticed.

The idea of egocentrism really explains The Spotlight Effect: Our entire existence is seen from our own perspective; it’s built from our own experiences. Other people see the world around them from their own perspectives. What’s incredibly important to you in any given moment probably hasn’t even registered on everyone else’s radar. We use our experiences to evaluate other people’s thoughts and behaviours, leading to inaccuracies and skewed opinions.

So, for our self-consciousness and day to day worries, The Spotlight Effect can be a positive thing — we don’t have to worry so much.

But what about if you’re trying to promote your brand? It wouldn’t be leap to consider that because you know why your service is better than your competitors’, or you understand exactly what your business offers potential clients, you assume everyone else does too.

Sometimes — whether an established company or a young startup — it’s too easy to forget other people’s perspectives; to forget that it’s crucial to communicate effectively who you are and what you do, to both existing and new customers.

So we think that it’s worth stepping back. Try and see what other’s see. Maybe your website could have a more targeted user experience. Does it even say what you do?