Sunday, February 27, 2011

People Care Less Than You Think

One of the main complaints about the world is that people don't care enough. But it's not all bad:
This research provides evidence that people overestimate the extent to which their actions and appearance are noted by others, a phenomenon dubbed the spotlight effect. In Studies 1 and 2, participants who were asked to don a T-shirt depicting either a flattering or potentially embarrassing image overestimated the number of observers who would be able to recall what was pictured on the shirt. In Study 3, participants in a group discussion overestimated how prominent their positive and negative utterances were to their fellow discussants. Studies 4 and 5 provide evidence supporting an anchoring-and-adjustmentinterpre- tation of the spotlight effect. In particular, people appear to anchor on their own rich phenomenological experience and then adjust--insufficiently--to take into account the perspective of others. The discussion focuses on the manifestations and implications of the spotlight effect across a host of everyday social phenomena.
This is one of the biggest lessons I try to teach my high schoolers.


  1. How many of them get the message, do you think?

  2. Not many. They might admit most people don't care about other people's details, but they're "special".

  3. Maybe I should show them this satire:,19332/

    Question, why is most good satire (The Onion, South Park, Daily Show), not age appropriate?

  4. Amike7:54 PM

    Good question. I think most satire involves a reductio-ad-absurdum of certain lines of flawed reasoning...but that requires you to take the argument and reveal its nasty, offensive side (which is usually age inappropriate right there), on top of which you're usually doing it by taking on the voice of the nasty/offensive character himself, which means the reader has to grasp concepts like "unreliable narrator."

    That's my guess, but I'm just brainstorming. For high schoolers, the Onion and the Daily Show are usually okay.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.