The self-serving bias is the tendency people have to seek out information and use it in ways that advance their self-interest. In other words, people often unconsciously make decisions that serve themselves in ways that other people might view as indefensible or unethical.
Studies show that we can easily see how the self-serving bias affects others’ actions, but we have difficulty realizing how it affects our own.
For example, doctors tend to believe that they are immune from the influence of gifts they receive from pharmaceutical companies. But studies show those gifts have a significant effect on what medications doctors prescribe. One study found that 64% of doctors believed that the freebies they received from pharmaceutical companies influenced other doctors. However, only 16% of doctors thought it affected their own actions.
So, the self-serving bias often blinds us to the ways in which we are prejudice in favor of ourselves. Indeed, it can cause even the most well-intentioned of us to completely overlook our own bad actions.