Attention seeking

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Attention seeking behavior is to act in a way that is likely to elicit attention. Attention seeking behavior is defined in the DSM-5 as "engaging in behavior designed to attract notice and to make oneself the focus of others’ attention and admiration".[1]: 780  This definition does not ascribe a motivation to the behavior and assumes a human actor, although the term "attention seeking" sometimes also assumes a motive of seeking validation. People are thought to engage in both positive and negative attention seeking behavior independent of the actual benefit or harm to health. Motivations for attention seeking are considered[by whom?] to be driven by self-consciousness and thus an externalization of personality rather than internal and self-motivated behavior.[clarification needed] This type of influence on behavior can result in a potential loss of a person's sense of agency, personality disorder and the behavior associated with these conditions.

Enjoying the attention of others is socially acceptable in some situations.[2] However, an excessive need for attention can lead to difficulties in interpersonal relationships. However, as a tactical method, it is often used in combat, theatre (upstaging) and it is fundamental to marketing.[citation needed] One strategy used to counter various types of attention-seeking behavior[by whom?] is tactical ignoring.


The causes of attention seeking behavior are varied. Risk factors leading to attention seeking behavior include loneliness, jealousy, low self-esteem, narcissism and self-pity.[3] A desire for validation is theorised as a motivation for attention seeking behavior. As of 2022, no studies have evaluated the prevalence of attention seeking behavior in the general population.

Repeated attention seeking behavior is a symptom of multiple personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder. However, for borderline personality disorder, attention seeking is more often used as a stigmatising label than as an accurate clinical description.[4] Attention seeking may have similar presentations to ADHD although they are distinguishable by motivations of impulsivity or hyperactivity.[5]

Psychoanalytic theory posits that narcissism is related to attention seeking behavior. In the theory, an excessive need for attention or admiration is termed narcissistic supply.[6]

Stigma and criticism[edit]

The term "attention seeking" has been the subject of criticism for its usage as a pejorative term to achieve victim blaming, especially in the context of borderline personality disorder and self harming behaviors.[7] As an example, individuals who self-harm frequently self-conscious of their wounds and scars and feel guilty about their behavior, often associated with behavior to conceal self harm.[8] According to a 2005 survey of 133 books containing the term, the term is often used with either no definition or a poor definition, no empirical studies specifically about attention seeking behavior were found, and there existed widespread academic disagreement on the causes and implications of attention seeking.[9] The use of stigmatising language such as "attention seeking" is of particular prevalence in medical settings, although student exposure to psychiatric environments has shown evidence to reduce bias and stigma towards individuals with mental disorders.[10]


There exists research on the relationship between social media usage and attention seeking behavior, among other personality traits in the Big Five personality traits in a variety of demographics.

In a 2013 study of Facebook users, it was found that agreeableness and conscientiousness were negatively correlated with attention seeking tendencies.[11] A 2014 study found evidence suggesting that in the presence of the personality traits of histrionic personality disorder, social media reinforces attention seeking behavior in the form of vaguebooking, which is posting intentionally vague messages to elicit requests for detail.[12] Internet trolls in social media also tend to exhibit attention seeking behavior.[13] A 2016 study found evidence suggesting that individuals with attention seeking tendencies can benefit from the usage of social media to compensate for a lack of attention in other interpersonal areas, although this conclusion is not entirely consistent with similar studies.[14]

A 2021 study found that experiencing phubbing by others (a form of being ignored by others) was positively correlated with attention seeking behavior, and the effect was larger in men, although narcissism was considered as an alternate explanation.[15] A similar 2019 study found evidence correlating narcissism with attention seeking behavior.[16]

Tactical Ignoring[edit]

Tactical ignoring is a behavioral management strategy, used to combat attention seeking behaviors, where a person gives no outward sign of recognizing a behavior, such as no eye contact, no verbal response and no physical response to the person seeking attention. However, they are very aware of the behavior and monitor the individual to ensure their safety and the safety of others that are potentially involved. The desired consequence of attention-seeking behavior is receiving attention in some form (positive or negative) from another person. Tactical ignoring is a technique that is often employed in the hopes that when an attention-seeking behavior no longer attracts attention, it may eventually cease. It is most frequently used in the behavioral training of children,[17] but is suitable for changing or shunning adult behavior as well.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders : DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association, American Psychiatric Association. DSM-5 Task Force (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. ISBN 978-0-89042-554-1. OCLC 830807378.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ Burns, Robert B. Essential Psychology, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991; ISBN 0-7923-8957-3
  3. ^ Stober, J (2003). "Self-Pity: Exploring the Links to Personality, Control Beliefs, and Anger" (PDF). Journal of Personality. 71 (2): 183–220. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.7102004. PMID 12693515.
  4. ^ Aguirre, Blaise (2016), "Borderline Personality Disorder: From Stigma to Compassionate Care", Stigma and Prejudice, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 133–143, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-27580-2_8, ISBN 978-3-319-27578-9, retrieved 2022-05-08
  5. ^ Mellor, Nigel (March 2009). "Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or attention seeking? Ways of distinguishing two common childhood problems". British Journal of Special Education. 36 (1): 26–35. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8578.2009.00410.x. ISSN 0952-3383.
  6. ^ M.Farouk Radwan, The Psychology of Attraction Explained,
  7. ^ Aviram, Ron B.; Brodsky, Beth S.; Stanley, Barbara (September 2006). "Borderline Personality Disorder, Stigma, and Treatment Implications". Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 14 (5): 249–256. doi:10.1080/10673220600975121. ISSN 1067-3229. PMID 16990170. S2CID 23923078.
  8. ^ Truth Hurts Report, Mental Health Foundation, 2006, ISBN 978-1-903645-81-9, retrieved 2008-06-11
  9. ^ Mellor, Nigel (2005). "Attention seeking: The paradoxes of an under-researched concept". Educational & Child Psychology. British Psychological Society Division of Educational & Child Psychology. 22: 94.
  10. ^ Brenner, Adam M. (2022-03-18). "Stigma and Change". Academic Psychiatry. 46 (2): 145–146. doi:10.1007/s40596-022-01624-1. ISSN 1042-9670. PMID 35304686. S2CID 247524226.
  11. ^ Seidman, Gwendolyn (February 2013). "Self-presentation and belonging on Facebook: How personality influences social media use and motivations". Personality and Individual Differences. 54 (3): 402–407. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2012.10.009. ISSN 0191-8869.
  12. ^ Berryman, Chloe (2014). # storyofmylife: personality characteristics associated with attention seeking behavior online and social media use in emerging adulthood (Honours thesis). Burnett Honors College, University of Central Florida.
  13. ^ Maltby, John; Day, Liz; Hatcher, Ruth M.; Tazzyman, Sarah; Flowe, Heather D.; Palmer, Emma J.; Frosch, Caren A.; O'Reilly, Michelle; Jones, Ceri; Buckley, Chloe; Knieps, Melanie (2015-09-25). "Implicit theories of online trolling: Evidence that attention-seeking conceptions are associated with increased psychological resilience". British Journal of Psychology. 107 (3): 448–466. doi:10.1111/bjop.12154. ISSN 0007-1269. PMID 26403842.
  14. ^ Edwards, Francine (2016-12-29). "An Investigation of Attention-Seeking Behavior through Social Media Post Framing". Athens Journal of Mass Media and Communications. 3 (1): 25–44. doi:10.30958/ajmmc.3.1.2. ISSN 2407-9499.
  15. ^ Hao, Lujie; Liu, Dan; Yin, Jie; Lin, Bingkun; Zhang, Xiaosan; Jiang, Qingquan (2021-07-07). "Peer phubbing and selfie liking: The roles of attention seeking and gender". Social Behavior and Personality. 49 (7): 1–13. doi:10.2224/sbp.10468. ISSN 0301-2212. S2CID 237839224.
  16. ^ Hawk, Skyler T.; van den Eijnden, Regina J.J.M.; van Lissa, Caspar J.; ter Bogt, Tom F.M. (March 2019). "Narcissistic adolescents' attention-seeking following social rejection: Links with social media disclosure, problematic social media use, and smartphone stress". Computers in Human Behavior. 92: 65–75. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2018.10.032. ISSN 0747-5632. S2CID 59528272.
  17. ^ "Ignoring | Consequences | Essentials | Parenting Information | CDC". 2020-06-08. Retrieved 2022-11-20.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gewirtz, Jacob L Three determinants of attention-seeking in young children (1956)
  • Gewirtz, Jacob L A factor analysis of some attention-seeking behaviors of young children Child Development (1956)
  • Harvey, Eric & Mellor, Nigel Helping Parents Deal With Attention Seeking Behaviour (2009)
  • Leit, Lisa & Jacobvitz, Deborah & Hazen-Swann, Nancy Conversational Narcissism in Marriage: Narcissistic attention seeking behaviors in face-to-face interactions: Implications for marital stability and partner mental health (2008)
  • Mellor, Nigel Attention Seeking: A Practical Solution for the Classroom (1997)
  • Mellor, Nigel The Good, the Bad and the Irritating: A Practical Approach for Parents of Children who are Attention Seeking (2000)
  • Mellor, Nigel Attention Seeking: A Complete Guide for Teachers (2008)
  • Smith-Martenz, Arden Attention-seeking misbehaviors (1990)

External links[edit]