The Spotlight Effect heightens a person’s self-awareness of lying or doing something wrong or doing something they perceive as being wrong. Liars tend to think that their targets readily detect their lies when, in fact, they do not. A common example of the Spotlight Effect is when a person has a small spot on their shirt. The person automatically thinks that everybody sees the spot and tries to cover it up. The act of trying to cover the spot draws more attention to the spot thus reinforcing the Spotlight Effect.
The Spotlight Effect also occurs when police officers conduct surveillance. They tend to think that the suspect identified them as law enforcement when, in fact, the suspect did not discover the surveillance. I tested the Spotlight Effect after a long surveillance. My collogue was absolutely convinced that the suspect identified him as law enforcement. After the suspect was arrested while robbing a bank, I asked him if he made surveillance. His answer stunned me back to reality. He said, “Of course, I didn’t know I was being followed. If I did, do you think I would have robbed the bank?”
Skepticism heightens the Spotlight Effect. As the Spotlight Effect becomes more intense, liars tend show classic verbal and nonverbal cues that indicate deception. The Spotlight Effect is a good technique to detect deception.