What is Self-Serving Bias?

Self-Serving Bias refers to the tendency of people to attribute their success to personal factors such as talent or hard work, while attributing their failures to external factors outside their control, such as bad luck or a difficult situation. This bias often occurs unconsciously and can affect the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

Examples of Self-Serving Bias

A common example of self-serving bias is a person taking credit for their successes while blaming others for their failures. For example, a salesperson may believe that their good sales figures are a result of their exceptional abilities, while blaming the poor sales figures on external factors such as the economy or competition.

Another example is a student who gets a good grade on an exam and attributes their success to their personal intelligence or hard work, while blaming a bad grade on the teacher or the difficulty of the exam.

The Effect of Self-Serving Bias

Self-serving bias can have both positive and negative effects on an individual. On the positive side, it can boost self-esteem, motivation and drive. Believing that we are capable, competent and in control of our lives can help us work harder and achieve better results.

However, on the negative side, self-serving bias can also lead to overconfidence and arrogance, creating a false sense of superiority that can be damaging to personal relationships and workplace dynamics. It can also result in people ignoring or dismissing feedback or constructive criticism which can lead to a lack of self-improvement.

How to Overcome Self-Serving Bias

Recognizing self-serving bias as an inherent cognitive bias is the first step in overcoming it. By acknowledging our tendency to attribute success to internal factors, and failures to external factors, we can start to gain a more balanced and accurate view of ourselves and our situations.

Actively seeking feedback from others, being open to constructive criticism and taking responsibility for our actions can also help to mitigate self-serving bias. By considering alternative viewpoints and taking ownership of our mistakes, we can learn and grow from our experiences, improving our personal and professional development.


Self-Serving Bias is a natural cognitive bias that can affect the way we perceive and interact with the world around us. While it can have some positive effects, it can also lead to overconfidence and arrogance, limiting our ability to grow and improve.

By acknowledging this bias and actively taking steps to overcome it, we can improve our self-awareness, relationships, and ultimately achieve greater success in all aspects of our lives.


FAQs about Self Serving Bias

1. What is Self Serving Bias?

Self Serving Bias refers to the tendency of individuals to attribute their success to internal factors such as skills, abilities or hard work, and to attribute their failures to external factors such as luck or unforeseen circumstances. In short, it is a cognitive bias that allows individuals to protect their self-esteem and feel good about themselves.

2. How does Self Serving Bias affect our daily lives?

Self Serving Bias can affect our daily lives in various ways. For example, it can lead to overconfidence, making us believe that we are better than what we actually are. It can also lead to blaming others for our own failures, which can strain our relationships with others. Additionally, Self Serving Bias can make us less receptive to constructive criticism and feedback, hindering our personal and professional growth.

3. How can we overcome Self Serving Bias?

Overcoming Self Serving Bias requires self-awareness and a willingness to accept responsibility for our failures. It is important to recognize that success is not just due to our internal factors, but also to external factors such as teamwork, support and luck. Seeking feedback can also help us gain a more accurate perspective of ourselves and our abilities. Lastly, developing empathy and understanding for others can help reduce our tendency to blame others for our failures, and improve our relationships with others.


1) Campbell, W. K., & Sedikides, C. (1999). Self-threat magnifies the self-serving bias: A meta-analytic integration. Review of General Psychology, 3(1), 23-43.
2) Alicke, M. D., & Govorun, O. (2005). The better-than-average effect. Handbook of positive psychology, 305-314.
3) Krull, D. S., Loy, M. H., Lin, J., Wang, C. F., Chen, S., & Zhao, Y. (2009). Processing biases and heuristics in judgment: The effects of stimulus versus response framing on self-serving trait attributions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(7), 837-849.