The Self-Serving Bias

The tendency to take credit for desirable outcomes and blame others for undesirable ones.

A student who gets a good grade on an exam might say, "I got an A because I am intelligent and I studied hard!" whereas a student who does poorly on an exam might say, "The teacher gave me an F because he doesn't like me! It's not my fault."

Three reasons have been proposed to explain the self-serving bias. The first explanation is motivational: people are motivated to protect their self-esteem, so create explanations that make them feel better. The second explanation focuses on making impressions on others: although people may not believe the content of a self-serving utterance, they may offer it to others to create a favorable impression. The third focuses on the mechanisms of memory: reasons for success might be more memorable than reasons for failure.