Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Spotlight Effect

Do people really notice when we doing things outstandingly?  Do they really notice it when we do something dumb or disreputable?  At first glance, there's bad news and good news.

A study by Gilovitch. Medvec, and Savitsky (2000) looked into one aspect of how and when people notice what you're doing.  Some college students were persuaded to wear a Barry Manilow t-shirt.  Now Barry Manilow is not and was probably not ever regarded as the epitome of "cool."  They asked the t-shirt wearers to estimate what percentage of people noticed what they were wearing; they estimated that about 47% would notice their un-cool Barry Manilow t-shirt.  In reality, only about 22% of people did notice.  This indicated that other people pay less attention to what we do than we think they do.

This can be good, like when they miss our gauchness or miscues.  But it can be a problem when they are oblivious to your accomplishments.  Maybe it all washes out: they blissfully ignore your deserving honors, but also fail to notice that you've buttoned your blouse in the wrong holes because it was dark and you were sleepy.

On the other hand, sometimes what we wear can prime being noticed strongly.  What percentage of people do you think noticed this person's bare midriff, bralessness, and unpleasant hat?


Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

I'm afraid I'm guilty!

The Bastard King of England said...

Loose tits trump all else.

Mike said...

What hat?

Big Sky Heidi said...

I noticed it all! Don't wear that to class!

Bilbo said...

I can absolutely guarantee you that if I accidentally leave my fly open, 99.7% of all attractive women will notice and think positively of my degree of disreputability. Oh, and I'm with Mike ... was that woman wearing a hat?