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Better & Kinder Than Others ?

Grete Stern (1949). Dream Nº 17. Reina Sofía Art Center. Recovered from

It is about the attitude we face with the results of our own life: The analysis we make of who we are.

It is wrong to think that, in our day to day, we do things better than most people and that we are not to blame for the mistakes we make, those mistakes are the fault of others, or of circumstances, but never of us as we act perfectly. There is always someone to blame.

Psychologists explain this phenomenon as follows: It is an internal attribution, as far as our own successes are concerned, and external, when we refer to our own failures.

Why do we do this? This thinking phenomenon gives us a strong self-esteem, which allows us to integrate into different groups of people and motivates us to continue doing things.

If you don't believe you can do it, then you won't do it, right? Why would you want to start a conversation knowing that you are going to make a fool of yourself? Would you start a race knowing beforehand that you are not going to finish it?

It is also called the egoistic bias, since it consists of believing that you are kinder or better than others. It is the classic one of drivers who spend their time cursing at everyone, because they don't do what they would have done better.

The issue with this erroneous thinking is that we end up believing what we say we do well, since it becomes a stable belief in us, that is to say: That which defines us. Meanwhile, the attitudes that we do not like about ourselves, we consider them variable, circumstantial, or whatever you want to call them, since we attribute them to bad luck, to the bad vibes of others or to anything else that escapes our responsibility.

Another of the behavioral aspects that human beings develop to feel safe is the need to control the reality that surrounds us. That is why, in general, we live deceiving ourselves, to believe that in this way we can control the things that happen to us. A classic example is to believe that when we score a goal, it is because we have trained hard and conscientiously, but when we get a yellow card it is because the referee is bought, isn't it?

However, as in everything, the law is made the trap. Some people who escape this bias are:

Depressives immune to the selfish bias. Clearly, people with low self-esteem are not carriers of this erroneous thinking. In this pathology, our self-esteem is not the highest and, moreover, the sense of control has no fans in this group.

Women less than men. Research in Social Psychology says that we women tend to adjust our self-evaluations more quickly to the opinions that others have made of us, while men continue to inflate their own image. Not a coincidence, I imagine.

More bogged-down optimists. Experts say that this error is the most used option, in fantasy optimistic personalities (those little trained in tolerating those emotions that they call negative), because the only thing that provokes, again and again, is self-justification and not so much, the learning of what we do not do well.

The "I told you so" phenomenon. We all want to be right, and that is why we will pay more attention to those things that confirm our ideas and not so much to the ideas that contradict them. We will see what we want to see and we will remember what we want to remember, and that is why they call it selfish bias.

Or isn't it nice to meet those people, who we like the way they think? God raises them and the wind blows them together, they say.

Describe yourself and describe humanity. Quick test: Are you more favorable in the first answer than in the second one? There you go, you have it, self serving bias!

Experts say that this error of thinking is very clearly seen in the way we behave, for example: At work, in romantic relationships and in making decisions about what we consume: We buy everything that confirms our ideas. The bubble filter is not just for the sake of it.

I am the only one who throws garbage away at home, right? Selfish bias. And I am sure that the time you could not do it, it was because something external happened and prevented you from doing it.

Sure, it is understandable. But I am sure, too, that others are the ones who always leave things lying around or messy, filthy, or do not know how to solve their problems, do not keep their promises.

My friend, you are not alone in this. There are many of us who think the same, there are many of us who believe, fervently, that we do things better than others.

How did my friend, boyfriend, neighbor, etc. do this to me? I would never have done it.

How could he lie to me? "Juanito", the teacher, the president, or whoever. I would never have done it.

It is wrong to think that it is something we all do because we are subnormal and that is it. No! It is an automatic response that our brain likes to generate, because it gets that taste of reward (dorsolateral striatum). It feels good, knowing that we are in control of what works. And it feels light on the pillow, when it is the other person who is to blame for our ills.

It is not me, it is you. Yes, you've already seen it: If you get it right, it's because you ARE/HAVE the capacity. However, if the other person gets it right, it is by luck or chance. And the opposite is also true: If you make a mistake, it is because something caused it, but if the other person makes a mistake, it is because she/he IS it. Example: "So-and-so lied because she/he IS a liar", "Pepito doesn't do the housework because he IS lazy".

Grete Stern (1950). Electrical items. Graffica. Recovered from

Is there a light at the end of the road, or are we condemned to accuse the other and not take charge? Well... The more aware we are of this biological flaw the better, say the specialists.

The worst shortcut is not to be self-critical, not to reflect on the faults we make, they also say.

It is unpleasant to be wrong and pleasant to be right. We are what we do well, and there will always be a friend or a neighbor for everything that goes wrong.

Right? Anyway, you can still choose how to tell next stories: Whether to keep accusing your neighbor, or to assume that you are someone's neighbor too. Up to you.

. . .


Greño, M. H. (2019). Nuestra mente nos engaña: Sesgos y errores cognitivos que todos cometemos (Spanish Edition) (1st ed.). Shackleton books.

Rubia, F. J. (2007). El cerebro nos engaña (Divulgación. Ciencia) (Spanish Edition) (Booket ed.). Booket.

Pinker, S. (1998). Como a Mente Funciona (2nd ed.). COMPANHIA DAS LETRAS - GRUPO CIA DAS LETRAS.

MacLeod, C., & Mathews, A. (2012). Cognitive Bias Modification Approaches to Anxiety. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 8(1), 189–217.

Kahneman, D. (2021). Thinking, Fast and Slow (Later prt. ed.). Farrar Straus Giroux.

Connors-Nelson, C. (2021). Practical Critical Thinking - Problem-Solving, Reasoning, Logic, Arguments (Grades 9–12). The Critical Thinking Co.

Dawson, M. P. (2020). Critical Thinking and Analytical Mind: The Art of Making Decisions and Solving Problems. Think Clearly, Avoid Cognitive Biases and Fallacies in Systems. Improve Listening Skills. Be a Logical Thinker. Independently published.


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María José Puebla

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