You Are Probably Pretty Self-Centered, But So Is Everyone Else

Young woman looking in hand mirror
Photo: Corbis

People who spend a lot of time worrying about what others are thinking about them should be reassured by a recent interview the University of Chicago behavioral scientist Nicholas Epley gave to Nautilus. Because the thing is: They’re mostly not. Epley’s work suggests that people are naturally ego-centric — that is, self-centered — which means in practice that no one is examining you as closely as you are. 

Think of it this way, Epley says: You are an expert on you. And experts notice details about their field of study that novices don’t. “If you’re an expert physicist, you can notice all sorts of small, minute details that nobody else can notice,” Epley said. “If you’re an expert mathematician, you can look at a formula and notice all of its intricacies in a way that a novice can’t.” The idea holds true for the way you look at and judge yourself. “And so when you see a picture of yourself you look at all these low-level details … your smile is just a little bit off, that curl in your hair isn’t quite right, your smile is just a little bit weird, your undershirt is showing just a little bit,” he said.

You, being the leading expert on all things you-related, are zeroed in on the details in a way that others are not. “Other people are novices about you,” Epley continued. “Novices don’t pay that much attention to detail.” So you’re pretty self-centered, in other words — but so is everyone else, which means we should probably all just calm down about it. 

You Are Self-Centered, But So Is Everyone Else