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Enjoying the attention of others is quite socially acceptable. In some instances, however, the need for attention can lead to difficulties. The term attention seeking (or attention-seeking) is generally reserved for such situations, where excessive and “inappropriate attention seeking” is seen.[1]



Examples of attention seeking include:[2]

  • the man who complains loudly in a restaurant so that everyone will notice
  • the girl who wears the skimpiest of outfits on a cold winter night
  • the mother who sighs loudly and crashes the dinner dishes about so that the family will hear that she's a martyr to domesticity


The following styles of attention seeking have been identified:[3]

  • Extroverted positive overt style - associated with narcissism, bragging and boasting. May also include shocking exhibitionist behavior such as streaking.
  • Extroverted positive subdued style - similar but more subtle such as wearing designer clothes, wearing sexy clothes or dominating the conversation.
  • Extroverted negative overt style - to gain pity and reassurance.
  • Extroverted negative subdued style - making a negative statement to the world by, for example, dressing as a goth, freak or punk.

In different pathologies or contexts

Tactical ignoring

Tactical ignoring, also known as planned ignoring, is a behavioral management strategy used in response to challenging behavior that seeks to receive attention or to gain a reaction from others. It is a commonly used strategy when the person displaying the attention-seeking behavior still feels rewarded by a negative response.

See also


  1. ^ Armstrong, K.J & Drabman, R. (1994) The clinical use of sports skills tutoring with grade school boys referred for school behavioural problems. Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 16, 43-48.(p.44)
  2. ^ Attention seeking
  3. ^ Styles of Attention-Seeking
  4. ^ Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) American Psychiatric Association (2000)
  5. ^ Truth Hurts Report, Mental Health Foundation, 2006, ISBN 978-1-90364-581-9,, retrieved 2008-06-11 

Further reading

  • 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

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