Cartoon Illustrating Spotlight Effect

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This Between Friends comic from July 5, 2015 provides a nice example of the spotlight effect. The protagonist is convinced that the fast-food restaurant employee is noticing everything that she doesn’t like about her appearance, everything from her hair color to the stain on her shirt. In the comic, the employee’s expression doesn’t change leading the reader to conclude that the employee notices nothing.

Ask students to think about a recent spotlight effect experience they had. Was there something about their appearance that they were certain everyone would notice but likely no one or very few did? After students share their experiences with one or two people near them, ask for volunteers to share a few examples with the class.

Conclude this exercise by inviting students to yell out ideas about what the fast food employee is thinking about what she is certain others are noticing about her.

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.