13Information Processing Bias #5: Self-Attribution Bias
Heads I win, tails it's chance.
—Ellen Langer and Jane Roth, 1975
Bias Name: Self-Attribution Bias
Bias Type: Cognitive
Subtype: Information Processing
Self-attribution bias (or self-serving attribution bias) refers to the tendency of individuals to ascribe their successes to innate aspects, such as talent or foresight, while more often blaming failures on outside influences, such as bad luck. Students faring well on an exam, for example, might credit their own intelligence or work ethic, while those failing might cite unfair grading. Similarly, athletes often reason that they have simply performed to reflect their own superior athletic skills if they win a game, but they might allege unfair calls by a referee when they lose a game.
Example of Self-Attribution Bias
Dr. Dana Dunn, a professor of psychology at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has done some excellent work regarding self-attribution bias. She observed that her students often have trouble recognizing self-attribution bias in their own behaviors. To illustrate this phenomenon, she performs an experiment in which she asks students to take out a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page. She then tells them to label one column “strengths” and the other “weaknesses” and to list their personal strengths and weaknesses in the two columns. She finds that students consistently list more strengths ...
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