Other People Are Probably Watching Us More Closely Than We Think


I like the catchy term that scientists recently came up with to describe a common psychological phenomenon: the "invisibility cloak illusion". I don't quite like what it describes.


According to the scientists, and their 2016 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we incorrectly assume that other people aren't paying nearly as much attention to us as we are to them.


In 2000, psychologists found that people aren't paying nearly as much attention as we think they are to the things we're self-conscious about.


In a now well-known study, students walked around a party in a Barry Manilow T-shirt and ended up wildly overestimating how much the other party guests noticed their attire.


The title of the Times op-ed says it all: "You're too focused on what you're too focused on."


There are benefits to realising that other people are thinking about you as much as you're thinking about them


Reading through the research, I thought back to the day I somehow showed up to work in boots that were heavily stained with dirty snow. As soon as I realised, that was all I could think about every time I passed a coworker in the hallway.


On the other hand, as I've been writing this article, donning my metaphorical invisibility cloak, my coworkers may have been noticing everything from how loud I'm typing to how much I'm slouching. Who knew?

在另一方面,正如我在写这篇文章的时候一直穿着刚才比喻过的那件隐形斗篷一样,我的同事可能已经注意到了我打字的声音和我懒散的样子。 谁知道呢?

The point here isn't to feel self-conscious whenever you're in public. Instead, as Boothby suggests in The Times op-ed, it's to understand how miscommunication can happen.


For example, she writes: "Employees pull their hair out in frustration while bosses obliviously believe their instructions are simple and straightforward."


Meanwhile, Margaret S. Clark, another author on the paper, told Psychology Today that it's worth remembering how much other people may in fact be thinking about you.


Clark said, "If I want to go out to lunch with you, and I think that I'm thinking it more than you'rethinking it, then I might be hesitant to ask."


So: Remove your invisibility cloak and ask. The other person might be pleasantly surprised, and relieved.