The actor-observer effect is most obvious when we are interpreting negative events, i.e. when watching someone else we are more likely to attribute negative occurrences to disposition whereas when negative things happen to us we are more likely to attribute this to the situation rather than admitting our limitations. This is known as the ‘self protecting bias’. When things go well for us we are more likely to make dispositional attributions and this is called the ‘Self enhancing bias’. A tendency towards this form of bias enables our self esteem to remain relatively high; it protects us, (Greenberg et al, 1982).
Evaluating SSB: The modesty bias
SSB is not as high amongst people from Asian cultural backgrounds; successes are attributed to external factors and failures to internal factors – (Kitayama and Markus 1995 – self effacement enhances self esteem in collectivist culture; individual achievements are minimised)
Also SSB is more commonly used by women than men in Western cultures and it has theorised that they may be more aligned to collectivist sub cultural, valueing relationships and the needs of others before their own, defining self in terms of connectedness to others, (Nagayama Hall and Barongan 2002).
Studies: Kashima and Triandis (1986), Watkins and Regmi (1990), Bond et al (1982)