What Is Self-Serving Bias? Examples, Definition, Experiments

People have a habit of giving credit for their success to their dedication and hard work. But, when they fail, they would want to put that load on someone else. This habit is called self-serving bias.

 It is common and observed among a large part of the population. In other words, when human beings take credit for positive events and put the blame for negative things on others, it is called self-serving bias. 

When you look at this from an ethical point of view, you are putting your interest before others. It is good to take credit for your success. But, when you blame negative things on others, it shows that you think the others made you fail.

 The theory first came into existence in the late 1960s when there were studies regarding this concept parallel to the other concept known as attribution bias. 

What Is Inverted Self-Serving Bias?

Inverted self-serving bias is when people give credit to external factors when something good happens. 

On the other hand, when something unfavorable happens, they will think that all those bad things happened because of them. Here, the person has a negative self-perception, depression, and low self-esteem. 

Locus of control, internal or external, will depend upon the person’s perception and the situation.

What Is The Locus Of Control?

When you define and understand self-serving bias, you must also understand the locus of control. 

It determines how one thing can be attributed to your talents. If you give credit to yourself for your success, then it means that there is an internal locus of control. When you blame others for something wrong, the locus of power here is external.

Examples Of Self-Serving Bias

Here are some examples of self-serving bias

  1. When a student gets good grades, he will say that the credit should go to him because of his hard work. On the other hand, when he has poor grades, he would say that the exams were challenging, the teaching was not good, etc.

  2. When a person gets a good job, he thinks and says that the job is because of his qualifications and hard work. On the other hand, if he doesn’t get a job, he would not admit his mistake; he would blame the entire thing on some external factor.

There are two things that you can make out when you come across such a concept. The person who has a self-serving bias is the one who has a positive self-perception. He might also be a selfish person or a manipulative person who only thinks of his interests.

Examples Of Inverted Self-Serving Bias

It is also crucial to understand the concept of inverted self-serving bias to know the concept as a whole. A person with low self-esteem or severe depression generally shows inverted-self serving bias. Check the examples given here.

  1. The person who got good grades in exams says that it was his good luck that he got good grades.

  2. The person who did not get the job thinks that it is because of his mistakes in interviews that he did not get it.

Where Will You Get To See Self-Serving Bias As An Attitude?

There are a few places where you will see self-serving bias as an attitude. These places include:

  • School
  • Office
  • College
  • At home

In short, you will have access to many people who portray self-serving bias.

What Can Be The Probable Reasons For Self-Serving Bias?

Self-serving bias is prevalent, and you will see that it can also be described as human perceptual distortion. Some of the primary reasons why self-serving bias comes up are written here.

1. Self-esteem

People who want to enhance or maintain their self-esteem might show self-serving bias. Many want to show that they have great talents and are superior to the rest.

Maintaining self-esteem might be the main reason why they show a self-serving bias.

2. Self-presentation

People who wish to maintain their image in someone’s eyes or those who want to stay in someone’s good books would present themselves in such a way that it would match the expectations of the other person. 

It means that when people present themselves as ideal in every way, it will help enhance their self-esteem. Thus, self-presentation can be one of the causes of self-serving bias.

3. People are naturally optimistic.

People have a positive nature, and that’s what makes them optimistic. When people get good results, they think they already know something good will happen. 

But when some negative thing happens, it surprises people. This kind of nature might be one of the causes of self-serving bias.

Is There A Need To Overcome Self-Serving Bias?

Self-serving bias can also create some other issues if not taken correctly. If you feel that it has started getting on your nerves, you must overcome it. Here’s what you need to do.

Gain self-awareness

 The most crucial thing that you ought to have is gaining self-awareness. When you know where you are wrong and your weaknesses, you use your self-awareness to analyze yourself. Also, you can use this analysis to make yourself better. You can remove your vices and add virtues to your life.

Accept yourself

It would help if you accepted yourself and all the facts about yourself. If you are not perfect, then to that’s fine. You are an individual with unique qualities, so you must respect yourself. You can change your attitude if you want to add some positives to your life.

Do a SWOT analysis about yourself.

All you need to do is find out your strengths and weaknesses. You must get ahead with a SWOT analysis, which will give you an idea about what things you need to change about yourself. 

Have gratitude

In life, you will come across many people and situations. You will learn a few things from some people and receive help on your way. If you show gratitude, it would means that you value someone else too and respect them too, just like you have self-respect for yourself.

If you follow these practices, you will see that you can handle yourself well. You will be able to overcome the self-serving bias.

When Will Self-Serving Bias Create Significant Hurdles In The Workplace?

Self-serving bias is good when a person practices it to enhance his self-esteem. But often in the workplace, when the team tries to defend itself by saying that the project failure was because of external factors, this can become a significant hurdle to progress. 

The team will never try to figure out and address the shortcomings. It will always hold the external factors responsible for a failure. 

It is important to note that if something is practiced in moderation, then it is okay. But when it goes out of control and becomes a symptom or personality trait for the person, it is unacceptable.

 For some people, it is always either a self-serving bias or the inverse of the same. Self-serving bias can affect decision-making and many other factors in a workplace. Thus, it will prove to be a significant hurdle. 

Today, there is much research going on in this field. Some neural analyses and even laboratory ones show that the concept should be understood from the point of view of the workplace or some other career avenue. 

When people have to make decisions, there should be an idea about the cognitive behavior of people and groups.


Self-serving bias may be considered as something that is like a roadblock to decision-making and success. But when there is self-awareness and mindfulness, these things will not come into the picture. 

There should be other important aspects like self-compassion and empathy, too, which will help stay at peace with things coming on the way. 

Rather than being biased, it is better to remain aware of what’s happening and how the solutions can be availed. People who tend to succeed or fail would have many factors linked to that thing. Rather than being judgmental, staying open to different avenues is better. 

One can have a self-serving bias at some point or at some events. But when a person becomes entirely dependent on such biases, then life will be impossible for them and others. 

People get opportunities to learn new things, so one should not let these things go with personal biases. It is vital to keep your mind open and understand things the way they are. Staying away from prejudices is also one of the great ways to stay balanced.


What is self-serving bias?

Self-serving bias is a cognitive bias that leads people to attribute their successes to internal factors, such as their own abilities or efforts, while attributing their failures to external factors, such as bad luck or other people’s actions.

How does self-serving bias affect our behavior?

Self-serving bias can lead people to take credit for successes that may not be entirely their own, and to avoid taking responsibility for failures. This can impact our relationships, decision-making, and overall sense of self.

What are some examples of self-serving bias?

Examples of self-serving bias include a student who believes they did well on a test because of their own intelligence and hard work, but did poorly on a test because of a difficult exam or a distracting classmate.

Why do people exhibit self-serving bias?

Self-serving bias can serve as a protective mechanism for people’s self-esteem and self-worth. By attributing successes to internal factors and failures to external factors, people can maintain a positive sense of self and avoid feelings of inadequacy or failure.

How can self-serving bias impact organizations and institutions?

Self-serving bias can impact organizations and institutions by leading to biased decision-making, favoritism, and a lack of accountability. Leaders and employees may attribute successes to their own abilities and efforts, while blaming failures on external factors such as the economy or other departments.

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