The self-serving bias refers to the tendency of individuals to attribute positive outcomes to their own abilities or efforts, while attributing negative outcomes to external factors beyond their control.


The self-serving bias commonly occurs when people evaluate their own actions, behaviors, or performance. It involves a cognitive bias where individuals have a natural inclination to protect their self-esteem and maintain positive self-perceptions.


The self-serving bias can be influenced by various factors such as motivational and psychological processes. Individuals are motivated to maintain a positive self-image and hence tend to attribute successes to their own abilities, skills, or efforts. This bias can also be augmented by a need for self-preservation, protecting one’s self-worth, or avoiding feelings of guilt or shame.


Example 1: An athlete who wins a competition might attribute their victory to their hard work, dedication, and talent, while disregarding factors such as luck or the performance of their opponents.

Example 2: In a work setting, an employee who receives a promotion may attribute it to their exceptional skills and contributions, whereas if they were passed over for promotion, they might blame it on unfair circumstances or office politics.


The self-serving bias can have significant impacts in various aspects of life including personal relationships, work environments, and decision-making processes. It can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings, as people may fail to acknowledge their own shortcomings or contributions to negative outcomes. Moreover, it can hinder personal growth and development by preventing individuals from recognizing areas where improvement is needed.

Overcoming the Bias:

Recognizing and acknowledging the existence of the self-serving bias is the first step in overcoming its negative effects. Encouraging self-reflection, practicing empathy towards others, seeking feedback, and promoting a culture of self-improvement can help individuals mitigate the biases and develop a more realistic and accurate understanding of their abilities and actions.