Self-Serving Bias

By Gillian Fournier

The common human tendency to attribute one’s successes to personal characteristics, and one’s failures to factors beyond one’s control. The reason people tend to personalize success is because it helps their self-esteem levels. Most people demonstrate this behavior on a regular basis. It is human nature to take credit for things like an A on a test or a job well done at work. It is also human nature to avoid responsibility entirely for mistakes or problems.

This behavior can rob people of opportunities to learn and improve. If we address our weaknesses and listen to critique we can improve. If we avoid them and blame them on factors like the teacher, the car we took a driving test with etc, then we remain stagnant as far as skill levels.

Example: A star quarterback discusses the hard work and team-mindedness of his fellow players when asked to explain a big win. A few weeks later, after his team loses a game, the same quarterback explains that “it just wasn’t our night”.


    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Jul 2010