What Is Adolescent Egocentrism?

Adolescent egocentrism is the belief that older tweens and teens have that other people are paying a lot of attention to the way they look and act. People under the influence of this egocentrism believe that all of the eyes in a situation are looking at them. This is a normal cognitive process, but it should begin tapering off by the time a teen turns 16.

Several common teen and tween behaviors stem from adolescent egocentrism. A minor embarrassment such as spilling a soda on themselves or bumping their knee while walking across the room can make them extremely upset, because they think that the incident was just as obvious to others as it was to them.

According to About.com, David Elkind adjusted Jean Piaget's stages of cognitive development to identify adolescent egocentrism. As discussed in an article from Education.com, some adolescents fail to distinguish between their own concerns and the concerns of others. As a result, they construct imaginary audiences of admirers and critics among their peer group, feeling that they must perform in order to gain approval. As a result, they feel a heightened desire for privacy, along with greater levels of self-consciousness. Some also construct personal fables that express their own uniqueness, invulnerability and possession of a specific degree of influence in their own peer network. People who persist in this beyond the age of 17 or 18 often experience difficulties moving into the realities of the career world and in adult relationships.