13. Egocentrism in adolescence
Adolescent egocentrism is a term that David Elkind used to describe the phenomenon of adolescents' inability to distinguish between their perception of what others think about them and what people actually think in reality. His theory on adolescent egocentrism is drawn from Piaget’s theory on cognitive developmental stages, which argues that formal operations enable adolescents to construct imaginary situations and abstract thinking. Accordingly, adolescents are able to conceptualize their own thoughts and conceive of other people’s.
However, Elkind pointed out that adolescents tend to focus mostly on their own perceptions – especially on their behaviors and appearance - because of the “physiological metamorphosis” they experience during this period. This leads to adolescents’ belief that other people are as attentive to their behaviors and appearance as they are of themselves. According to Elkind, adolescent egocentrism results in two consequential mental constructions, namely imaginary audience and personal fable.
He believed that adolescent egocentrism was a temporary phenomenon that will gradually diminish as adolescents grow older because after entering the formal operational stage, no new mental systems would develop. Accordingly, the two mental constructions that result from egocentrism, will gradually be overcome and disappear as formal operations become mature and stable.
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