People drastically overestimate how often others attend to them or notice their unusual features, a phenomenon termed the spotlight effect. Despite the prevalence of this egocentric bias, little is known about how to reduce the tendency to see oneself as the object of others’ attention. Here, we tested the hypothesis that a basic property of mental imagery—the visual perspective from which an event is viewed—may alleviate a future-oriented variant of the spotlight effect. The results of three experiments supported this prediction. Experiment 1 revealed a reduction in egocentric spotlighting when participants imagined an event in the far compared with near future. Experiments 2 and 3 demonstrated reduced spotlighting and feelings of embarrassment when participants viewed an impending event from a third-person (vs. first-person) vantage point. Simple changes in one’s visual perspective may be sufficient to diminish the illusion of personal salience.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
- mental imagery
- visual perspective
- spotlight effect