Self-Serving Bias & Fundamental Attribution Error – MCAT Psychology | MedSchoolCoach

Self-Serving Bias & Fundamental Attribution Error

MCAT Psychology - Chapter 6 - Section 2 - Attitudes & Behavior - Biases & Prejudice
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Sample MCAT Question - Self-Serving Bias & Fundamental Attribution Error

What are similarities of self-serving bias and fundamental attribution error?

I. They both attribute success to internal disposition

II. They both attribute failure to external situations

III. They both seek to explain the causes of behavior

a) III only

b) I and II only

c) I, II, and III

d) None of the above

A is correct. Choice I is a characteristic of self-serving bias, but not fundamental attribution error. Choice II is also a characteristic of self-serving bias and not fundamental attribution error. Choice III is the definition of attribution, which is a similarity between self-serving bias and fundamental attribution error. Therefore, only choice III is correct. Answer choice B is incorrect because choices I and II are incorrect. Answer choice C is incorrect because choices I and II are incorrect. Answer choice D is incorrect because choice III is correct.

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Self-Serving Bias & Fundamental Attribution Error for the MCAT

Self-serving bias and fundamental attribution error are two prominent cognitive biases that shed light on the way we perceive and interpret the behavior of ourselves and others. This post covers what you need to know about both cognitive biases for the MCAT exam.

Self-Serving Bias

Self-serving bias describes how individuals alter the perception of causality to preserve self-esteem. In other words, when something happens to you, you explain it in a way that boosts your self-esteem. You’ll take credit for something good that happens to you, and you’ll pass the blame off on someone to something else when something bad happens. Relating this to attribution, when something good happens to you, you’ll probably attribute your success to internal factors, such as your own good characteristics. When something bad happens to you, you’ll probably say that it was due to external factors beyond your control, and so whatever bad thing happened wasn’t your fault. For example, consider a teacher who administers an exam to their students. If the class does really well on the exam, the teacher will believe that it was due to their high-quality teaching. If the students do poorly on the exam, the teacher might claim that the students were too lazy to study the material properly.

Fundamental Attribution Error

The fundamental attribution error describes how we we attribute negative behaviors of others to internal factors and positive behaviors to external factors. For example, if someone is late to a work meeting, we might jump to assume that it’s because they’re an inconsiderate person. Notice how we apply the opposite standards of the self-serving bias when we judge others.

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