The Psychology Behind Video-Phobia

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By Matthew Low

If you don’t like watching yourself on video, you are among the majority. The fear of being on camera is not new, but thanks to apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, millennials are loving it, and Baby Boomers and Generation Xers are slowly getting on board.

The reason you hate the way you look on video: the combo effect of mere-exposure and confirmation bias.

Formulated in 1968 by psychologist, Robert Zajonc, the mere-exposure effect asserts that people react more favorably to things they see more often. Since we see ourselves most frequently in the mirror, this is our preferred self-image. According to the mere-exposure effect, when your slight facial asymmetries are left unflipped by the camera, you see an unappealing, deformed version of yourself.

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To Megan Kelly, the image on the left looks wrong since she sees herself in the mirror as the image on the right.   To TV viewers, the image on the left is more familiar.


Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for and find information that backs up our previously held beliefs and reinforces our brains heuristics. Heuristics are brain tricks (shortcuts) that help humans make sense of the world around them, in rapid pace. We want to be right, so we look for all the information that is going to corroborate our thoughts. If you think you are going to look awkward on camera, when reviewing your video, you will actively search out evidence that this is true. This means that some people can only ever see their faults.

The fear of video stems from judgements from others; we don’t want others to see the flaws we see in ourselves. Fight this idea. You are literally the only person in the world that thinks this! No one else has the same biases about you, as you do.

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        To Payton Manning, the image on the right is how he sees himself.  To football fans, the image on the left seems familiar.


4 ways to overcome your video fears

Confirmation bias and the peculiarities of the mere-exposure effect come together to make sure that seeing yourself on screen is anxiety-inducing.

Once you are conscious of your subconscious fears,  you can start to fight back against them.

  1. First things first. Your brain is lying to you. The first thing you should tell yourself when you feel the anxiety is “Quiet, brain!” Remind yourself of the fallacies behind the fear of video, your brain is trying to confirm your belief that you look awkward/bad/ugly – and getting it wrong!
  2. Refocus your attention. If your fears are getting in the way of a good performance while making your video, think about ways to refocus your attention away from the camera. Concentrate even more on making sure you’re delivering value, and getting your point across.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help. If you’re feeling nervous about jumping in front of the camera, ask for what you need. If you need someone to help you film – ask a colleague. If you need to have cue cards, have them! The more comfortable you feel, the better the shoot will go.
  4. Realize that people don’t care. Develop a mantra that you can tell yourself whenever you feel fearful.  All your anxieties are stemming from fallacies that are only in your Get in front the camera, and love yourself!

Matthew Low is an Account Manager at SparcStart.  He analyses videos for enhanced job descriptions and coaches recruiters on how to help hiring managers overcome their video-phobia.












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