Self-Serving Bias: Meaning, Examples, And How it Impacts You

Last Update on February 24, 2023 : Published on February 26, 2023
Self-Serving Bias

Every day something new happens. Sometimes we learn from it, and sometimes we don’t. It’s a part of our growth, after all. However, have you ever wondered why we often credit ourselves for the good things that happen and dismiss the failures as others’ faults? Is there a reason behind this behavior?

Yes, there’s a reason. When you attribute yourself for the success you gain and when you blame external factors when things don’t go your way, it’s called a self-serving bias.

There have been numerous research studies that say that this self-serving attribution can negatively affect our well-being and hold us back from our self-growth.

In this article, we’re exploring what self-serving bias means, why it happens, and how it impacts our overall well-being.

Self-Serving Bias: What Does It Mean?


Self-serving bias is a habit wherein we take credit for the success and all the good things that happen in our lives, but then turn around and blame other people or external factors when negative things happen, or we are faced with failures. It is not an official diagnosis and can affect anyone – regardless of age or cultural background.

Here are some common examples of self-serving bias that will help you understand this concept better;

  • Creating a competition where you are already ahead
  • Taking credit for team efforts
  • Manipulating others to get them to do things your way
  • Putting yourself on a pedestal that you might not deserve
  • Blaming others when your plans don’t go the way you wished

Why Does This Happen?

The burning question that arises here is; Why does this self-serving bias happen? Well, in a way, it’s a self-defense mechanism that can protect your self-esteem and self-interests from shattering. It could also be a way to increase your self-esteem in public to avoid judgment.

Here’s an example; You studied hard for your test and passed. In this case, you pat yourself on the back for working hard. But, if you fail the same test, you may indirectly or directly blame the tutor for not teaching you well.

In the former sentence, it’s an internal attribution or action but in the latter, it’s an external attribution.

In some studies, it was found that motivation can play a role in self-serving biases such as self-enhancement and self-presentation. In some studies, it was found that people use self-serving bias as a coping mechanism while in others it was found that the same attribution is used where there’s open comparison to others.

You can find self-serving bias in various situations in life, including work, politics, sports, school, and even at home.

Can It Be A Symptom Of Something More?

Yes, it could be. In a 2020 study, self-serving attribution was found to be higher in people diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorder including delusional disorder. It could also act as a survival mechanism for people with schizophrenia.

Positive self-serving bias can help bring light to hallucinations while negative self-serving bias can be related to delusions.

In another study, it was found that self-serving bias was present in people with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) or those with narcissism.

Causes Of Self-Serving Bias

Self-serving bias exists to help us celebrate our successes and protect our self-worth and self-esteem when things do go as planned. It could affect anyone – from a 10-year-old to a 60-year-old. In 2021 research, it was found that self-serving bias was more active in Western cultures such as in the USA than in Eastern cultures such as in China and Japan.

How Does It Impact Your Well-Being?

While we like to believe that self-serving bias can be a defense mechanism, it can have its disadvantages too. When you continue with self-serving attributions, it can;

  • Cause a strain in your relationships
  • Prevent you from accepting constructive feedback
  • Prevent you from achieving self-growth as it prevents you from accepting your mistakes
  • Make it harder to do what’s best for a group or team
  • Limit your ability to be responsible for your actions when you are met with failure


While self-serving bias may help boost your self-esteem, self-respect, and self-worth and even protect your mental health in various settings, it can also leave you to shut the doors firmly on constructive feedback and criticism, preventing your self-growth and lowering your empathy toward others in any relationship.

Self-serving bias is a common occurrence in our daily lives, but when it contributes to us not being able to accept our mistakes and take responsibility for our failures, it can be negative, leaving a strain on our well-being.

Knowing how this self-serving bias can affect us and how it is formed can help us work through it better and even protect our emotional health in the process.

I hope this blog helped you understand what self-serving bias is and how it impacts us. For more, you can write to us at or DM us on social media. You can also share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As Seen On