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Group-serving bias

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Title: Group-serving bias  
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Subject: Index of psychology articles, Attribution bias, Out-group homogeneity, Group polarization, Groupthink
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Group-serving bias

It has been suggested that a group-serving bias exists, where there is a tendency for group members to make more internal (dispositional) attributes for events that reflect positively on the group and more external (situational) attributes for events that reflect negatively on the group (Taylor & Doria, 1981). As per a 1972 study done by Taylor and Jaggi, there is differences in attributions made by Hindus. Based on this study, Taylor and Doria posits that the group-serving bias can be perceived as similar to the self-serving bias, except that the bias is applied to the group rather than just the individual.


While there has not been abundant research concerning evidence for a concrete phenomenon of a group-serving bias, there have been a few studies that have demonstrated differences in group-based explanations for behaviour (both theirs and others).

Taylor and Jaggi’s (1974) study, concerning ethnocentrism, and attitudes and behaviours of specific cultural groups revealed discrepancies in attributions depending on group membership. The study consisted of two cultural groups, Hindus and Muslims, and looked at reasoning Hindus made regarding explanations for their own group members (i.e. their in-group, Hindus) and for members of another group (i.e. an out-group, Muslims). In part of the administered questionnaire (used to assess attributions), the Hindu participants were presented with situations, consisting of either a Hindu or Muslim actor, and each situation involved the actor engaging in what was termed by the authors as a “socially desirable or undesirable” (Taylor & Jaggi, 1974, pg 165) way towards the participants. Results of the study show that when the actors in the proposed situations belonged to the same cultural group as the participant (i.e. an in-group member), the participants were found to make more internal attributions for the actors’ socially desirable behaviour and external attributions for socially undesirable behaviour; when the actors in the proposed situations belonged to a different cultural group than the participant (i.e. an out-group member), the participants were found to make more external attributions for socially desirable behaviour and internal attributions for socially undesirable behaviour (Taylor & Jaggi, 1974). It showed be noted that Taylor and Jaggi’s 1974 study was examining ethnocentrism and attribution and not a group-serving bias specifically, and introduced a new variable into the mix (i.e. culture) which may have had an effect on the attributions that were made regarding in-group/out-group behaviour. Also, of interest is that only Hindus acted as participants; it would have been pertinent to see if the attributions Muslims made for Hindus were similar to the results found for Hindus.

Taylor and Doria’s (1981) study, pertaining to the presence of both self-serving and group-serving biases for situations concerning success and failure, also produced results that suggested evidence of a group-serving bias. The authors' study consisted of athletic teams, and looked at the attribution process made for both individual and group success and failure. Taylor and Doria measured success and failure, for both individuals and groups in terms of meeting goals, which were defined by both individuals and teams. The questionnaire administered to players acted to identify the existence of a self-serving bias and/or a group serving bias when players were asked if success or failure (individual or team) was a result of the individual or the team (Talyor and Doria, 1981). Taylor and Doria found that both self-serving and group biases existed. Interestingly, it was found that a group-serving bias had a greater presence than a self-serving bias when individuals were asked about the cause of their successes and failures, which the authors mainly attributed to the use of real groups (i.e. teams) in the study (Taylor & Doria, 1981).

Since there appears to be limited evidence of a group-serving bias (as previously defined), the idea of the bias existing should be taken with care. There are many factors that can contribute to the decisions made by groups and the behaviours they engage in (e.g. culture, group dynamics); it may be too simple to extrapolate the definition of the self-serving bias to groups.

Cultural differences

Leung et al.[1] conducted an experiment to compare the reward allocation biases of Americans and Chinese in different group outcome conditions. The first, participants' Need for Cognitive Closure (NFCC) were measured with the 42-item NFCC scale. Next, participants performed the reward allocation task. The result demonstrated that both high NFCC Americans and Chinese showed the culturally typical allocation bias in success experience. They concluded that Chinese are more likely to show the group-serving bias which means they are rewarding the group more than the group deserve. Also, Americans are to give extra credit to the self, because the self is regarded as a more powerful causal entity in American contexts.

The differences between Western and Eastern culture on attributing group-serving bias were also explained by individualism and collectivism. Heine and Lehman[2] demonstrated that North Americans are better able to achieve the cultural ideals associated with independence and individualism by viewing themselves positively. An opposite view, Japanese culture encourages individual to keep a self-critical view of themselves which means collectivistic society require individual to satisfy others instead of themselves.

See also

Psychology portal
Sociology portal



Taylor, D. M., & Doria, J. R. (1981). Self-serving and group-serving bias in attribution. Journal of Social Psychology, (113) 2, 201-211.

Taylor, D. M., & Jaggi, V. (June, 1974). Ethnocentrism and causal attribution in a South Indian context. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, (5)2, 162-171.

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