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The Self-Serving Bias

This article’s goal is to provide a thorough framework to understand and analyze fundamental dynamics of “the self-serving bias”. The two primary components of self-esteem are fully explained in this article, along with how the self-serving bias affects your day-to-day actions.

The Self-Serving Bias Self-Serving Bias

So, if you want to:

  • greater comprehend self-serving bias
  • understand the components of self-serving bias.
  • use self-serving bias to advance your own objectives.
  • study the effects of self-serving bias

You’ll adore this article, Let’s get started!

What is The Self-Serving Bias

The tendency for people to seek out information and utilize it to further their own interests is known as the self-serving bias. In other words, people frequently act in ways that others may perceive as immoral or unjustifiable just to promote their own interests. 

The idea is that people tend to blame external circumstances for failure while attributing success to their own skills and efforts. 

When people discount the veracity of critical criticism, emphasize their accomplishments and strengths while ignoring their flaws and shortcomings, or take credit for more of the group’s effort than they should, they are defending their self-esteem against harm and threat. 

These cognitive and perceptual inclinations support the self-esteem needs of the individual while simultaneously perpetuating deception and inaccuracy.

Components of Self-Serving Bias

Self-serving bias mainly consists of two components. People often have one of two loci of control: either an internal or an external locus of control.

1. Internal Locus of Control

An individual with an internal locus of control thinks they are in complete control of their life’s circumstances. They may take the glory for the good things that happen, but it also occasionally entails accepting responsibility for events beyond their control.

While having an internal locus of control might make a person feel good about their accomplishments, it can also cause them to take on guilt and shame that isn’t actually theirs. 

A person with an external locus of control avoids this guilt, but they also tend to feel more helpless and powerless to alter their fate.

2. External Locus of Control

A person who has an external locus of control is more prone to blame external influences for outcomes. They frequently assume that nothing they do will have any effect and that only outside forces dictate what will happen, rather than thinking they have the power to affect what will happen.

Self-serving justifications for failure are more prevalent in people with an external locus of control than they are in people with an internal locus of control. 

By claiming credit for achievements and allocating blame elsewhere for failures, they’re able to safeguard their self-esteem.

Research on Self-Serving Bias

Researchers looked into in one study how long-distance runners handle athletic performance that falls short of expectations. They postulated that long-distance runners who didn’t finish in their best time would use self-serving bias as a coping strategy. Three sources were used to compile the information:

  • Participants had to enter their best finish time (either by past race results or by forecasted times) in order to receive a position while registering for the event.
  • The event organizer used a digital system (i.e., bib time) to calculate each participant’s official finish time.
  • A week following the event, an email with a post-event survey was sent to every attendee. The survey asked participants about their race finish times, how satisfied they were with the event, and about any controls that might have an impact on the runners’ tendency towards self-serving bias.

The researchers discovered that runners who reported a finish time that was less than their best finish time were more inclined to do so than those whose performance was superior to their greatest finish time. 

The hypothesis of self-serving bias as a coping technique was confirmed: 

“Individuals lied to themselves in an effort to maintain their high self-image as runners even though there was no external reward for doing so.”

It’s interesting to note that the prejudiced and unbiased groups’ total event satisfaction levels were significantly different from one another. A lower degree of total event satisfaction was demonstrated by runners whose self-reported finish times were favorably biased (i.e., higher than their official finish times). 

In other words, runners who experienced self-serving bias thought that environmental conditions, such as the weather or the location of the water stations, contributed to their subpar athletic performance.

Effects of Self-Serving Bias

It is crucial to be conscious of the self-serving bias and how it may affect your life since it may alter how you make decisions and learn from your errors. 

  • The self-serving bias can be troublesome because if you do not accept responsibility for our failings, you are less likely to learn from them and do better going forward. 
  • Failing, learning from those failures, and then improving upon them is a vital part of becoming successful and reaching your objectives and desires in life. 
  • It is challenging and improbable for you to improve if you are unable to link your mistakes to your own failings.
  • This cognitive bias often enables you to safeguard your self-esteem. You gain confidence by attributing favorable circumstances to personal qualities. (PRO TIP: If you are someone who struggles with being confident, I recommend you to try out the self-esteem app. It’s a useful tool that will help you build a plan especially customized for you to get rid of your insecurities.)
  • You defend your self-esteem and release yourself from personal accountability by attributing failures to external factors.
  • This bias has the benefit of encouraging people to keep going in the face of difficulty.

If an unemployed individual believes, for example, that their unemployment is due to the state of the economy rather than any personal failure, they can feel more driven to keep looking for work. 

If an athlete feels that their failure in a previous event was due to poor weather rather than a lack of skill, they may be more motivated to do better.


The self-serving bias is extremely important in our daily lives in a world full of ongoing difficulties. After a failure, it prevents our self-esteem from being crushed, and after a success, it provides us the confidence we need to continue.

I sincerely believe that this article helps you comprehend the self-serving bias better.

  • How well do you comprehend self-serving bias?
  • Which component do you adore the most?
  • Would you place more blame on external factors or on internal loci of control for your success or failure?

If you have any other questions about this topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a real life example of self-serving bias?

An example of self-serving bias  would be someone taking credit for their triumphs while placing the blame for failures elsewhere. For instance, a person who achieves their monthly sales goal can credit their charm and talent for their accomplishment. They can claim that their supervisor established an unattainable benchmark for them to meet if they fall short of the sales quota, though.

How might the self-serving bias create problems?

Self-serving bias creates problems since it makes us only take credit for successful outcomes and shift blame in the event of failure. This makes it difficult for us to objectively evaluate our actions and comprehend the true reasons behind specific events.

How does anxiety affect self serving bias?

Low self-esteem brought on by sadness or anxiety may cause some people to “invert” their self-serving bias. Positive outcomes may be attributed to circumstances, luck, or other people’s behavior, while unfavorable outcomes may be attributed to their own personalities or acts.

How do you avoid self-serving bias at work?

You can try exercising the following to make sure you’re evaluating circumstances impartially rather than with self-serving bias:
Don’t go off explaining: If something doesn’t serve you, don’t only blame the outside world.
Positive comments: Give your employees credit and recognition where it is due.


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