Piaget's Definition of Egocentrism in Adolescence: Examples & Overview

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  • 0:00 What Is Egocentrism?
  • 1:43 Features of…
  • 3:05 Causes Of Egocentricism
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jade Mazarin

Jade is a board certified Christian counselor with an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a certification in Natural Health. She is also a freelance writer on emotional health and spirituality.

In this lesson, we will define egocentrism and look at where it originates. We will also examine its features and why it can show up during adolescence.

What Is Egocentrism?

When I was a teenager, I sometimes felt self-conscious around my peers. I have memories of going to a party and wondering what people were thinking when I showed up. I felt like all eyes were on me at times. I recall arriving at school and noticing if people were looking at me. I'd wonder if I looked okay, or something along those lines. I knew they were busy focusing on their own situations, but I still wondered if sometimes they were critiquing me.

There are many teenagers who feel the way I did in high school. They feel like their peers notice everything about them. Maybe they accidentally spilled something on their shirt, and the whole day, they think others are zeroing in on it. According to child psychologist David Elkind, this tendency for teenagers to focus on themselves and what others think of them, is called egocentrism in adolescence.

The term egocentrism originally came from another child psychologist named Jean Piaget. He came up with the developmental stages of children through maturation, and he noticed that egocentrism was a primary phase for children until about age six. He termed egocentrism as the tendency for children to only be aware of their own needs and thoughts and to basically assume they are the center of the world. In this phase, children are not able to consider or grasp the thoughts of others accurately, because they are only able to consider their own desires and opinions.

While Piaget believed that this was a childhood stage that is outgrown, Elkind proposed that it can also occur during teenage years. We don't have to know too many teenagers to see that this can happen.

Features of Egocentrism in Adolescence

The feature of egocentrism in adolescence is the feeling that an audience surrounds us. This audience is there to observe and critique us. The belief here is that we cannot avoid the scrutiny of others. Elkind labels this an imaginary audience, since it is not real, but exists only in our mind. In my earlier example, I talked about my own feelings of being assessed by my peers. I felt that they were my audience, even if that wasn't really the case. A teenage girl may spend hours on her makeup and hair thinking that she will get a certain boy to notice her, when this same boy may spend hours a day working out because he thinks that girl is assessing him.

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