On the Self-serving Bias

I recently completed a course in Social Psychology and amongst the many interesting things I learned, one came to mind today: the Self-serving Bias. To put it simply, the theory of self-serving bias implies that once we hold a certain belief, we will look for evidence to prove that belief rather than seek to disprove it. Isn’t that natural, you might think? Well, yes, it is, but it can lead to problems when left unchecked. We may at times hold certain negative beliefs that might later cause us problems, change our relationships, or affect others. Thus, social psychologists simply suggest that when it comes to certain beliefs, say for example, you’re introduced to someone new and you are led to somehow believe this person is boring, it would be better to look for interesting aspects of this person’s personality rather than dismiss them as someone you’re not interested in. You might just end up making a new friend, rather than shrugging someone off based on an unfound belief. After being made aware of the self-serving bias, I regularly try to question my judgements. This has turned out to be a useful exercise, however, sometimes I’ve found myself explicitly searching too hard for disproving evidence. This happened recently in the case of some friends that I had side-lined from my life. I was left wondering if I had made the wrong decision, if what I had believed about their behaviour was too harsh a judgement. I could think of many arguments against my decision to keep them aside, but I realised that I could find even more arguments in favour of my decision. I looked to the friends I had kept, and it was so easy to see that I had made the right choice. So, I’m glad I took the time out to question my beliefs, it showed me that what I had done was in fact the right thing to do, and wiped out all doubt from my mind.

If you are reading this and were not aware of the self-serving bias earlier, I hope you’ll try to keep it mind now on. It could help you save a friendship, or help you get past one.


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