A psychology class is a dangerous place to let your thoughts wander. And human nature is a pretty funny thing, until you read about it. Self-serving biases, theories of how we defend our self-esteem when threatened, are apparently pretty aggravating when you really look at them. Have fun reading these and then trying not to cringe when you catch yourself using one.
1. False Consensus Effect: Sometimes we do this really counter-productive thing where we feel so strongly about an opinion, that we just go ahead and assume that everyone else probably thinks that too— and this explains so, so much.
2. False Uniqueness: Basically, the most hipster part of how we are inclined to think, this issue involves assuming that others don’t match our talents or attributes, because we’re original, and that’s that.
3. Over Confidence: This one is actually really scary. We can become so certain that we know something that we can reframe our memories to match our beliefs. This is a huge issue in courtrooms with eye witnesses. So our brain just kinda makes things up to feel less lame about not knowing certain details. Not cool, brain.
4. Downward Social Comparison: If this one were a person, it would be the mean girl in your middle school gym class. It lets us tear others down when our self-esteem feels threatened. So basically, we start thinking things like, “Well, she might have gotten an A on that exam, but her lip gloss is hideous,” or you know, something along those lines.
5. Self-Handicapping: This is how we can swiftly avoid responsibility, and if you’re in college, there is a good chance this one is distinctly relatable. “There is just no way I can ever get that paper done that is due three weeks from now. I might not be feeling well the night before I have to turn it in— it’s almost cold and flu season— so I can try, but might not do my best”.
6. The Just World Effect: Bad things happen to bad people, and good things happen to good people. That’s it. Don’t feel bad for anyone. They did it to themselves. Let’s not be sad or feel the need to emphasize with the less fortunate— can we reference victim blaming for a second? (Side note: a lot of us do this until our own lives fall to pieces, then of course, it was not deserved).
7. Attribution Theory: “Yeah sure, I worked really hard on that paper, of course I did well.” Or: “I failed. It’s okay. I mean, I can’t control the will of the universe; everything happens for a reason. It is not because I didn’t do the research until the night before it was due, or because I consistently procrastinated. Or maybe the professor is just an idiot. Yes. That’s it. That must be it.” When your brain convinces you that you earn everything you do well with, but anything that goes wrong is someone or something else’s problem. Seems legit?