TL;DR What on Earth is going on in someone's head to invert a cognitive bias that is robustly observed in people who are psychologically healthy (Cohen's d = 1.28) and still present in depression (Cohen's d = 0.21)? I am looking to reconcile the self-serving bias with either the Imposter Syndrome or mental illness.
"Some people", as the familiar trope notes, “are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” While we are all familiar with individuals who are thoroughly unable to accurately attribute the true cause of their achievements, rarely do we ever consider the possibility that we too are guilty of the self-serving bias.
The self-serving bias appears to be both universal and robust. Moreover, an attenuated bias is associated with mental illness:
Mezulis, A. H., Abramson, L. Y., Hyde, J. S., & Hankin, B. L. (2004). Is There a Universal Positivity Bias in Attributions? A Meta-Analytic Review of Individual, Developmental, and Cultural Differences in the Self-Serving Attributional Bias. Psychological Bulletin, 130(5), 711–747. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.130.5.711
Others, on the other hand, seem to be afflicted with an attribution bias antipodal to the self-serving bias. These people seem to completely unable to internalise their achievements as truly their own, and appear to dismissively attribute their successes to external factors most people do for everyone but themselves -- the Imposter Syndrome.
Clance and Imes (1978) first characterised the Imposter Syndrome typology among their high-achieving female patients:
Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0086006
So, how can we reconcile what seem to be two antipodal phenomena?
From a very cursory consideration of things, it seems that for individuals with the Imposter Syndrome, the self-serving bias is either greatly attenuated, or dare I say, inverted. For that to occur, we might presume two things:
- They have crushingly low self-efficacy and/or;
- They are processing information in an aberrant manner.
So, how does social, cognitive, or abnormal psychology reconcile the self-serving bias with the Imposter Syndrome? Is the Imposter Syndrome even a thing or simply a cognitive style that occurs among people with depression? If so, what are their similarities, and what are their departures? In other words, is the phenomenology of someone with severe depression effectively the same as someone with the Imposter Syndrome?
Where possible, please include references.