Do others judge us as harshly as we think? Overestimating the impact of our failures, shortcomings, and mishaps.

Published on Jul 1, 2001in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
· DOI :10.1037/0022-3514.81.1.44
Kenneth Savitsky19
Estimated H-index: 19
(Williams College),
Nicholas Epley46
Estimated H-index: 46
Thomas Gilovich61
Estimated H-index: 61
When people suffer an embarrassing blunder, social mishap, or public failure, they often feel that their image has been severely tarnished in the eyes of others. Four studies demonstrate that these fears are commonly exaggerated. Actors who imagined committing one of several social blunders (Study 1), who experienced a public intellectual failure (Studies 2 and 3), or who were described in an embarrassing way (Study 4) anticipated being judged more harshly by others than they actually were. These exaggerated fears were produced, in part, by the actors' tendency to be inordinately focused on their misfortunes and by their resulting failure to consider the wider range of situational factors that tend to moderate onlookers' impressions. Discussion focuses on additional mechanisms that may contribute to overly pessimistic expectations as well as the role of such expectations in producing unnecessary social anxiety.
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