Why do people engage in self-serving bias?Sometimes, people tend to accept credit for their success or accomplishments but blame others when they don’t succeed or when things go wrong. In social...

Why do people engage in self-serving bias?

Sometimes, people tend to accept credit for their success or accomplishments but blame others when they don’t succeed or when things go wrong. In social psychology, this is termed self-serving bias.

Describe a situation (without mentioning real names) in which someone engaged in self-serving bias. It could be a personal acquaintance or a public figure. 

Asked on by kbulen

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Socially, the self-serving bias is a natural part of self-preservation.  If we admit to others that we have weaknesses, they will exploit those weaknesses in the next social situation.  But psychologically when we can’t admit to ourselves that a decision or choice we made did not result in the desired outcome, we are turning our back on a self-preservation tool: to adjust our behavior based on past experience.  Case in point: Salesman Anderson, who loses a client to Salesman Bronson, will blame others, or circumstances, for his failure—“Oh, Bronson’s uncle went to school with the client, so Bronson had an unfair advantage.”  Or “The weather made our barbeque party impossible, so I couldn’t close the deal.”  Internally, if we tell ourselves “They didn’t really look at my resume carefully” instead of “I should have designed my resume better” we are missing an opportunity to improve our chances next time, by improving our resume’s layout.  Self-analysis and self-adjustment cannot occur where self-serving bias exists.  Why do people have internal, psychological self-serving bias?  Because their past self-excuses have helped them dodge the pain of imperfection and their own self-worth has been damaged; they lose perspective on their and others' accomplishments.

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