Definition of the Self-Serving Bias
The self-serving bias is people's tendency to attribute positive events to their own character but attribute negative events to external factors. It's a common type of cognitive bias that has been extensively studied in social psychology.
Positive event - You get an A for an essay and you attribute it to your own awesomeness! (internal attribution)
Negative event - You get a C on an essay and you attribute it to your professor not having explained what they wanted well enough. (external attribution).
Depression and the Self-Serving Bias
Sometimes when people are depressed or have low self-esteem, their attribution style is flipped.
They attribute positive events to chance or external help, and attribute negative events to their own character.
If someone is feeling irritable, they might attribute negative events to a combination of internal and external factors "I suck and everybody sucks."
For example, "I got a C because I'm useless and professors are unfair anyway." Or, another example, "I'm having problems in my relationship because I'm a defective person and because other people are generally untrustworthy."
Overall, research on the self-serving bias and depression suggests that the bias isn't completely flipped in people with depression, but the magnitude of the bias is less than in the general population - it's smaller.
Antitodes to the Self-Serving Bias?
Here are some tips for avoiding the self-serving attribution bias:
- Mindful awareness helps. When you learn about common cognitive biases you can start to notice yourself doing them, and self-correct.
- Self-compassion is an extremely useful skill for reducing defensiveness and increasing your self-improvement motivation.
- Rumination causes people to think about the causes of problems over and over again, without moving forward. You can use these types of cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for reducing rumination.
Research on the Self-Serving Bias
- This 2004 meta-analysis examined the relationship between the self-serving bias and psychopathology (including depression and anxiety). The free fulltext of the article is here but is slow to load.
- This 2011 study uses a slightly different definition of the self-serving bias to relate it to climate change policy. The definition used here is a bias towards thinking "what benefits you is also fair." Free fulltext
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Self Serving Declaration:
“A self-serving declaration refers to a statement made by a party in his/ her own interest at some place and time out of court. It does not include testimony which the party gives as a witness at the trial.
Self-serving declarations are hearsay. “The purpose of the rule rendering hearsay evidence inadmissible is to prevent manufacturing evidence; hence self-serving declarations are excluded by courts”. [Hill v. Talbert, 210 Ark. 866 (Ark. 1946)]” Source: US Legal.com http://definitions.uslegal.com/s/self-serving-declaration/
“Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion. This support may be strong or weak. The strongest type of evidence is that which provides direct proof of the truth of an assertion. At the other extreme is evidence that is merely consistent with an assertion but does not rule out other, contradictory assertions, as in circumstantial evidence.
In law, rules of evidence govern the types of evidence that are admissible in a legal proceeding, as well as the quality and quantity of evidence that are necessary to fulfill the legal burden of proof. Types of legal evidence include testimony, documentary evidence, and physical evidence.
Scientific evidence consists of observations and experimental results that serve to support, refute, or modify a scientific hypothesis or theory, when collected and interpreted in accordance with the scientific method.”
Example of a self serving statement:
“Shinichi Suzuki, a professor from Fukushima Medical University, stated at a panel meeting for the ongoing health impact following the nuclear disaster that it was still too early to directly link the cancer cases with Fukushima meltdowns. While this is somewhat hard to believe, what with the 2011 nuclear crisis being the worst disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, and three people from the prefecture just “coincidentally” developing cancer in following months, it was Chernobyl itself that showed it takes at least four to five years for the disease to be detected.” Source: Japan Daily Press, http://japandailypress.com/2-more-cases-of-thyroid-cancer-found-in-fukushima-youths-1323295
Investigate statement, go to source cited: Chernobyl. Awaiting reply from 2004 report author re latency period of childhood thyroid cancer post Chernobyl. (Davis, University of Washington.) (my email sent on 6 June 2013). =The paper is entitled “Risk of Thyroid Cancer in the Bryansk Oblast of the Russian Federation after the Chernobyl Power Station Accident,” and is cataloged here:
Find statements based on scientific method which either confirm or refute the latency period of radiation induced childhood thyroid cancer as being rigidly 5 years as stated by Prof Suzuki of Fukushima.
v.239(4); Apr 2004
Latency Period of Thyroid Neoplasia After Radiation Exposure
Shoichi Kikuchi, MD, PhD, Nancy D. Perrier, MD, Philip Ituarte, PhD, MPH, Allan E. Siperstein, MD, Quan-Yang Duh, MD, and Orlo H. Clark, MD
From the From Department of Surgery, UCSF Affiliated Hospitals, San Francisco, California.
“Latency Period of Benign and Malignant Thyroid Tumors
Although some sporadic tumors unrelated to radiation may be included among our patients, the shortest latency period for both benign and malignant tumors was 1 year as occurred in 3 patients, whereas the longest time was 69 and 58 years, respectively (Fig. 1).”
Research indicates that the self serving statement of Prof Suzuki is contradicted by scientific evidence.
Suzuki gives an opinion and cites no evidence in his self serving statement.
In my opinion.
It can be shown that thyroid cancer resultant from radiation exposure may appear 12 months after exposure.
The question as to why Prof Suzuki should disregard medical evidence within his own sphere of activity and claimed expertise remains a mystery.
One may ask, in the same self serving manner as Prof Suzuki, what’s in it for him?
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