The Cocktail Party Effect -or- Conversational Narcissism

Tom, 22 American

Just wondering...I periodically dream that I'm incredibly small and getting smaller until even the sound of people's voices are deafening. I am always in a fairly regular conversational type situations but nobody seems to notice as I fade out of sight.

Mr Hagen's Response: Monopolizing the Conversation -or- The Need for Attention

In The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Individualism Charles Dember believes that individuals are attention seekers, "without attention being exchanged and distributed, there is no social life". A problem develops when people seek to monopolize rather than share the spotlight of attention. Dember finds a pervasive tendency in "American cultural individualism which encourages self-interest and self-absorption".

Your dream seems to be pointing out the social problem of egocentrism (monopolizing the conversation by others, who focus only on themselves). Said differently, this phenomena is known as "conversational narcissism". You are as you yourself say; "in regular conversational type situations" where you become smaller and smaller. From a neuropsychological perspective you are experiencing what is known as the "cocktail party effect", the ability to tune into a signal that your attention is directed towards and tune out what then becomes noise. Either you or the people you are in conversation with are being tuned out. When someone is being tuned out, that could be viewed as getting smaller and smaller. Perhaps that's just the conversational problem, no-one is listening or empathizing with each other anymore and are only narcissistically, egotistically interested in themselves. Is there a more polite, politically correct way of saying that a person is prejudiced?

Further Reading:

  • Elisabeth Young-Bruehl Anatomy of Prejudices.

Hope this provides some insight,

Mark H

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