Egocentric bias

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Egocentric bias is the tendency to rely too heavily on one's own perspective and/or have a higher opinion of oneself than reality.[1] A similar phenomenon is the false consensus effect, describing situations in which people overestimate the degree that others agree with their beliefs. Michael Ross and Fiore Sicoly first identified this cognitive bias in their 1979 paper, "Egocentric biases in availability and attribution".[2][3]

A related concept is self-serving bias, in which one takes undue credit for achievements and blames failures on external forces.


Based on results from past studies, there is evidence that cognitive and perceptual mechanisms cause these false beliefs. One cause of egocentric bias may be the need to inflate one's own ego and appear successful. Egocentric bias in estimates of consensus could be interpreted to support and/or justify one's feelings that their own behavioral choices are appropriate, normal or correct.[4] Furthermore, studies on attributional theory, which analyzes how people behave based on the information around them, have demonstrated that people believe that others will act and think as they do.[5]

Additionally, some evidence for egocentrically biased actions comes from a type of statistical reasoning called Bayesian perspective. Psychological studies based on Bayesian reasoning have found that that people adjust their inferences whenever they gain more information. However, past studies, such as one by Krueger & Zeiger, indicate that the biases caused by egocentrism is much stronger than those predicted by Bayesian reasoning.[6] Thus, some psychologists have postulated that the difference between Bayesian inference and egocentric bias lies in conservatism, which is the concept that people tend to be conservative when they are looking at a small sample of observations. According to the results from several conducted studies, individuals are also more likely to favor circumstances that are beneficial to themselves compared to those that favor to the people around them.[7]

Egocentric bias may have evolved from hunter-gatherer times, in which communities were small and interdependent enough that individuals could assume that others around them had very similar outlooks. An egocentric view would have reduced cognitive load and increased communication efficiency.[8]


Egocentric bias is considered by Daniel Schacter one of the "seven sins" of memory and essentially reflects the prominent role played by the self when encoding and retrieving episodic memories. For instance, an egocentric bias is displayed when a fisherman "remembers" catching bigger fish than he had actually caught in reality. Here, it becomes clear that this type of bias is fundamentally a memory distortion produced by current knowledge and beliefs, and leads one to remember the past in a self-enhancing manner.[9]

Besides simply claiming credit for positive outcomes, which might simply be self-serving bias, people exhibiting egocentric bias also cite themselves as overly responsible for negative outcomes of group behavior as well (however, this last attribute would seem to be lacking in megalomania). This may be because people's own actions are immediately accessible to them than others' actions. This is an example of what is called the availability heuristic. This bias suggests that people remember the past as they want it to be rather than the way it was, making themselves look good in retrospect.[1]

Motivational factors may also be a factor; one's sense of self-esteem may be enhanced by focusing on, or weighting more heavily, one's own inputs. People's own inputs and contributions tend to be more available (and more likely to be recalled) than the contributions of others.[2]

One study found that egocentric bias influences perceived fairness. Subjects felt that overpayment to themselves were more fair than overpayment to others; by contrast, they felt the underpayment to themselves were less fair than underpayment to others. Greenberg's studies showed that this egocentrism was eliminated when the subjects were put in a self-aware state, which was applied in his study with a mirror being placed in front of the subjects. When a person is not self-aware, they perceive that something can be fair to them but not necessarily fair to others. Therefore, fairness was something biased and subjective. When a person is self-aware, there is a uniform standard of fairness and there is no bias. When made self-aware, subjects rated overpayment and underpayment to both themselves and to others as equally unfair. It is believed that these results were obtained because self-awareness elevated subjects' concerns about perceived fairness in payment, thereby overriding egocentric tendencies.[7]

In social context, egocentric bias influences people to choose a social circle that is capable of maintaining one's positive traits. Study shows that one's choice of friend or social circle is likely to be dependent on the amount of positive feedback received.[10]


In a 1993 study conducted in Japan, subjects were asked to write down fair or unfair behaviors that they themselves or others did. When writing about fair behavior, they tended to start with the word "I" rather than "others". Likewise, they began unfair behaviors with "others" rather than "I." This demonstrates that people tend to attribute successes and positive behaviors to themselves, while placing the burden of failures and negative behaviors on others.[11] Furthermore, in this study there were gender differences detected; Japanese women, compared to men, remembered the behaviors of others more than their own, and were also more probable to characterize fair or unfair behavior to others compared to themselves.[11]

Recent studies of egocentric bias have been done in many different subgroups of people, such as bilingual people. A study done by Paula Rubio-Fernández and Sam Glucksberg found that bilingual people are less prone to egocentric bias because they have grown to pay more attention to others’ thoughts. Thus, it is less difficult for them to differentiate between their own opinions and those of others.[12]

False-consensus effect[edit]

Considered to be a facet of egocentric bias, the false-consensus effect contributes to people believing that their thoughts, actions, and opinions are much more common than they are in reality.[4]

A well known example of false-consensus effect is a study published by Ross, Greene and House in 1977.[5] Students are asked to walk around a campus with a sandwich board that bearing the word "repent". People who agreed to do so (50%) estimated that most of their peers would also agree to do so (average estimation 63.5%). Conversely, those who refused to do the experiment reported that most of their peers would refuse as well.[13]

Effect of Age[edit]

A 2016 study published by Riva, Triscoli, Lamm, Carnaghi, and Silani found that egocentric bias tends to be experienced in a much greater degree by adolescents and older adults than by young and middle aged adults. They examined the emotional effect of visuo-tactile stimulation on pairs of participants from a population of 114 female of varying ages. The varying degree of egocentric bias with age was attributed to the developmental cycle of the right Supramarginal Gyrus (rSMG) of the parietal lobe, which finishes developing at the end of adolescence and decays early.[14]


  1. ^ a b Schacter, Daniel L.; Gilbert, Daniel T.; Wegner, Daniel M. (2011). Psychology (2nd ed.). Macmillan. p. 254. ISBN 9781429237192. 
  2. ^ a b Ross, Michael; Sicoly, Fiore (1979). "Egocentric biases in availability and attribution" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 37 (3): 322–336. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.37.3.322. 
  3. ^ Fiedler, Klaus; Krüger, Tobias (2014). "Language and Attribution: Implicit Causal and Dispositional Information Contained in Words". In Holtgraves, Thomas M. The Oxford Handbook of Language and Social Psychology. Oxford University Press. p. 255. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199838639.013.006. ISBN 9780199838639. 
  4. ^ a b Mullen, Brian (1983). "Egocentric Bias in Estimates of Consensus". The Journal of Social Psychology. 121 (1): 31–38. doi:10.1080/00224545.1983.9924463. 
  5. ^ a b Ross, Lee; Greene, David; House, Pamela (1977). "The "false consensus effect": An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes" (PDF). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 13 (3): 279–301. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(77)90049-X. 
  6. ^ Krueger, Joachim (1994). "The Truly False Consensus Effect: An Ineradicable and Egocentric Bias in Social Perception" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 67: 596–610. 
  7. ^ a b Greenberg, Jerald (1983). "Overcoming Egocentric Bias in Perceived Fairness Through Self-Awareness". Social Psychology Quarterly. 46 (2): 152. doi:10.2307/3033852. 
  8. ^ Peters, Uwe (2015-12-01). "Human thinking, shared intentionality, and egocentric biases". Biology & Philosophy. 31 (2): 299–312. doi:10.1007/s10539-015-9512-0. ISSN 0169-3867. PMC 4771814Freely accessible. PMID 27013769. 
  9. ^ Schacter, Daniel (2003). "The Seven Sins of Memory" (PDF). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1001: 226–239. doi:10.1196/annals.1279.012. 
  10. ^ Clark, Dale L. (2009). "Aesop's fox: Consequentialist virtue meets egocentric bias". Philosophical Psychology. 22 (6): 727–737. doi:10.1080/09515080903409911. 
  11. ^ a b Tanaka, Ken'ichiro (1993). "Egocentric bias in perceived fairness: Is it observed in Japan?". Social Justice Research. 6 (3): 273–285. doi:10.1007/BF01054462. 
  12. ^ Rubio-Fernández, Paula; Glucksberg, Sam (2012-01-01). "Reasoning about other people's beliefs: Bilinguals have an advantage.". Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 38 (1): 211–217. doi:10.1037/a0025162. ISSN 1939-1285. 
  13. ^ Wallin, Annika (2011). "Is egocentric bias evidence for simulation theory?". Synthese. 178 (3): 503–514. doi:10.1007/s11229-009-9653-2. 
  14. ^ Riva, Federica; Triscoli, Chantal; Lamm, Claus; Carnaghi, Andrea; Silani, Giorgia (2016-01-01). "Emotional Egocentricity Bias Across the Life-Span". Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience: 74. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2016.00074. PMC 4844617Freely accessible. PMID 27199731. 


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