Actor-Observer Bias – A Cognitive Bias – 2024

(Last Updated On: February 11, 2024)

Actor-Observer Bias – A Cognitive Bias

Playing a Role In Your Vulnerability & Susceptibility To Scams

The Psychology of Scams – A SCARS Insight

•  Vianey Gonzalez B.Sc(Psych) – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

Article Abstract

The Actor-Observer Bias sheds light on our tendency to attribute our own behavior to external factors while attributing others’ behavior to internal factors. In scenarios like arriving late or experiencing success or failure, we often overlook external influences when assessing others’ actions.

This bias significantly impacts interpersonal dynamics, especially in scams and for scam victims. Victims may blame themselves or externalize responsibility, hindering their recovery. Overcoming this bias involves acknowledging external factors and fostering empathy towards oneself and others.

By doing so, victims can navigate their experiences with resilience and promote solidarity within the scam-affected community.

This article is part of SCARS continuing commitment to helping the victims of scams (financial fraud) to better understand the psychology of scams. In other words, why are victims vulnerable?

SCARS Scam Victims' Support & Recovery Program - Click Here to Sign Up

Actor-Observer Bias – A Cognitive Biases That Causes Incorrect Comparisons With Other People

Actor-Observer Bias – Overview

Introduction: In the intricate web of human interactions, our understanding of behavior is often colored by biases that shape our perceptions of ourselves and others. One such bias, the Actor-Observer Bias, offers insight into how we interpret actions differently depending on whether we’re the participant or the observer. Recognizing and comprehending this phenomenon is pivotal for fostering empathy and navigating social dynamics effectively.

Understanding the Actor-Observer Bias: The Actor-Observer Bias refers to our tendency to attribute our own behavior to external factors while attributing the behavior of others to internal factors. Essentially, when we’re the ones taking action, we’re inclined to point to situational factors or external circumstances as influencing our behavior. Conversely, when we observe others’ behavior, we’re more likely to attribute it to inherent traits or characteristics, downplaying external influences.

Illustrative Examples:

  1. Interpreting Lateness: Consider arriving late for a meeting. As the actor, you might blame traffic or unforeseen delays, emphasizing external factors. However, when someone else is tardy, you might perceive it as a lack of punctuality or responsibility, focusing on internal factors rather than considering external circumstances.
  2. Success and Failure: In instances of personal success, we often credit our abilities or hard work (internal factors). Yet, if we fail, we tend to attribute it to external factors such as unlucky circumstances. Conversely, when assessing the success or failure of others, we may ascribe their achievements to luck, while failures are seen as reflective of their capabilities or character traits.
  3. Interpersonal Conflicts: During conflicts, individuals typically explain their own behavior by pointing to situational stressors or external pressures, justifying their actions. Meanwhile, they may view others’ actions as deliberate or indicative of their inherent nature, overlooking potential external influences.

Implications for Social Dynamics: The Actor-Observer Bias profoundly influences our interactions and relationships. By recognizing this bias, we can enhance our understanding of interpersonal dynamics and cultivate empathy. Through introspection and a willingness to consider external factors, we can mitigate the tendency to attribute behavior solely to internal traits, fostering more accurate perceptions and healthier relationships.

Actor-Observer Bias: Impact During Scams and on Scam Victims

During scams and in the case of scam victims, the Actor-Observer Bias can manifest in several ways:

  1. Victims Blaming Themselves: Scam victims may attribute their falling prey to a scam to external circumstances, such as persuasive tactics employed by the scammer or misleading information presented. However, when observing others who have been scammed, they might be more likely to attribute the victims’ actions to personal naivety or gullibility, rather than considering the sophisticated techniques used by scammers. This manifests as a tendency to compare themselves with other victims unfavorably or without compassion.
  2. Externalizing Responsibility: Scam victims often externalize responsibility for their actions, citing factors like financial desperation or emotional vulnerability as reasons for their involvement in the scam. On the other hand, when observing individuals who have been scammed, they may perceive them as careless or foolish, failing to recognize the broader societal and psychological factors at play.
  3. Attributing Motives: Victims may rationalize their behavior by emphasizing external pressures or promises made by scammers, while viewing others who have fallen victim as negligent or easily manipulated. This differential attribution of motives can lead to victim-blaming attitudes and hinder empathy and support for those who have been scammed.
  4. Recovery and Self-Reflection: Overcoming the Actor-Observer Bias is crucial for scam victims in their recovery journey. By acknowledging the external factors that contributed to their victimization and recognizing the manipulative tactics employed by scammers, victims can cultivate self-compassion and empower themselves to avoid similar situations in the future. Additionally, fostering empathy towards other victims requires challenging the tendency to attribute their experiences solely to internal factors, fostering a more supportive and understanding environment for all those affected by scams.

Overall, understanding the Actor-Observer Bias in the context of scams enables victims to navigate their experiences with greater insight and resilience, while promoting empathy and solidarity within the broader community affected by scamming tactics.

How Do Cognitive Biases Make People Vulnerable To Scams, Fraud, and Deception

How do cognitive biases play a role in making people vulnerable and susceptible to scams, fraud, and deception?

Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that allow people to make quick decisions and judgments based on their past experiences and memories. These biases can be helpful in many situations, as they allow people to process large amounts of information quickly and efficiently. However, they can also make people vulnerable to scams, fraud, and deception.

One reason why cognitive biases make people vulnerable to scams is that they can lead people to make judgments that are not based on evidence or logical reasoning. For example, Confirmation Bias (a major bias that makes people vulnerable) is the tendency to seek out and interpret information that supports one’s preexisting beliefs, while ignoring or dismissing information that contradicts them. This can make people more susceptible to scams that appeal to their beliefs or biases, as they are more likely to believe the scammer’s claims without critically evaluating the evidence.

There are several ways that people can protect themselves from scams, fraud, and deception. One way is to be aware of common cognitive biases and how they can affect decision-making. This can help people to be more mindful of their thought processes and to question their own judgments.

Another way to protect oneself is to be skeptical of claims and offers that seem too good to be true. It is important to carefully evaluate the evidence and to ask questions before making a decision. This can help people to avoid falling for scams that rely on emotional appeals or incomplete information.

It can also be helpful to seek out additional sources of information and to consult with trusted friends, family members, or professionals before making a decision. This can provide a more balanced perspective and help to identify any potential red flags.

Overall, cognitive biases can make people vulnerable to scams, fraud, and deception by leading them to make judgments that are not based on evidence or logical reasoning, and by causing them to make irrational or risky decisions. However, by being aware of these biases and taking steps to protect oneself, people can reduce their risk of falling victim to these types of scams.

See our Catalog Cognitive Biases here: Cognitive Biases Catalog 2024

Overcoming Our Cognitive Biases

Overcoming cognitive biases requires deliberate effort and a willingness to challenge our ingrained thought patterns. Here are some strategies to help mitigate the impact of cognitive biases:

  1. Awareness: Recognize and acknowledge your own cognitive biases. Educate yourself about common biases and reflect on how they might influence your decision-making processes.
  2. Pause and Reflect: When faced with a decision or judgment, take a moment to pause and consider alternative perspectives. Question your initial assumptions and examine the evidence objectively before reaching a conclusion.
  3. Seek Diverse Perspectives: Actively seek out input from individuals with different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. Engaging in discussions with diverse groups can help counteract the effects of confirmation bias and broaden your understanding of complex issues.
  4. Challenge Assumptions: Practice critical thinking by questioning your own beliefs and assumptions. Ask yourself why you hold a particular viewpoint and consider alternative explanations or interpretations.
  5. Use Decision-Making Tools: Employ decision-making frameworks or tools, such as cost-benefit analysis or scenario planning, to structure your thinking and evaluate options systematically. These tools can help reduce the influence of biases by providing a structured approach to decision-making.
  6. Embrace Uncertainty: Accept that uncertainty is inherent in many situations and be open to revising your opinions in light of new information. Avoid overconfidence and recognize the limitations of your knowledge and expertise.
  7. Feedback and Reflection: Solicit feedback from others and reflect on past decisions to identify instances where cognitive biases may have influenced your judgment. Learning from feedback and self-reflection can help you develop greater self-awareness and improve decision-making over time.
  8. Develop Emotional Intelligence: Build your emotional intelligence by cultivating self-awareness, empathy, and emotional regulation skills. Understanding your own emotions and recognizing their impact on decision-making can help you mitigate the influence of biases driven by emotional responses.
  9. Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine to enhance your ability to observe and monitor your thoughts without judgment. Mindfulness practices can help you become more attuned to your cognitive processes and better equipped to recognize and manage biases as they arise.
  10. Continuous Learning: Commit to lifelong learning and personal development. Stay curious, seek out new information, and challenge your existing beliefs regularly. Engaging in learning opportunities can expand your perspective and reduce the likelihood of falling victim to cognitive biases.

See our Catalog Cognitive Biases here: Cognitive Biases Catalog 2024


Cognitive biases do make people more vulnerable to scams, fraud, and deception by causing them to ignore warning signs, pay more attention to information that supports their preexisting beliefs, rely on incomplete information, and anchor their decisions to easy and often incorrect information.

By being aware of these biases and making an effort to overcome them, people can be better equipped to avoid falling victim to scams and other forms of deception.

SCARS Resources:

Other Cyber Resources

-/ 30 /-

What do you think about this?
Please share your thoughts in a comment below!

SCARS FREE Support & Recovery Program - 4 EVER FREE

Do You Need Support?
Get It Now!

SCARS provides the leading Support & Recovery program for relationship scam victims – completely FREE!

Our managed peer support groups allow victims to talk to other survivors and recover in the most experienced environment possible, for as long as they need. Recovery takes as long as it takes – we put no limits on our support!

SCARS is the most trusted support & education provider in the world. Our team is certified in trauma-informed care, grief counseling, and so much more!

To apply to join our groups visit

We also offer separate support groups for family & friends too.

SCARS STAR Membership

Become a

SCARS offers memberships in our STAR program, which includes many benefits for a very low annual membership fee!

SCARS STAR Membership benefits include:

  • FREE Counseling or Therapy Benefit from our partner
  • Exclusive members-only content & publications
  • Discounts on SCARS Self-Help Books Save
  • And more!

To learn more about the SCARS STAR Membership visit

To become a SCARS STAR Member right now visit

SCARS Publishing Self-Help Recovery Books Available At

Scam Victim Self-Help Do-It-Yourself Recovery Books

SCARS Printed Books For Every Scam Survivor From SCARS Publishing


Each is based on our SCARS Team’s 32-plus years of experience.

SCARS Website Visitors receive an Extra 10% Discount
Use Discount Code “romanacescamsnow” at Checkout

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

Go to to learn how

U.S. FTC at and SCARS at
Visit to learn more!



Legal Disclaimer:

The content provided on this platform regarding psychological topics is intended solely for educational and entertainment purposes. The publisher makes no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information presented. The content is designed to raise awareness about various psychological subjects, and readers are strongly encouraged to conduct their own research and verify information independently.

The information presented does not constitute professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any psychological disorder or disease. It is not a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Readers are advised to seek the guidance of a licensed medical professional for any questions or concerns related to their mental health.

The publisher disclaims any responsibility for actions taken or not taken based on the content provided. The treatment of psychological issues is a serious matter, and readers should consult with qualified professionals to address their specific circumstances. The content on this platform is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a therapist-client relationship.

Interpretation and Definitions


For the purposes of this Disclaimer:

  • Company (referred to as either “the Company”, “We”, “Us” or “Our” in this Disclaimer) refers to Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. (registered d.b.a. “SCARS”,) 9561 Fountainbleau Blvd., Suit 602, Miami FL 33172.
  • Service refers to the Website.
  • You means the individual accessing this website, or the company, or other legal entity on behalf of which such individual is accessing or using the Service, as applicable.
  • Website refers to, accessible from

Website Disclaimer

The information contained on this website is for general information purposes only.

The Company assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents of the Service.

In no event shall the Company be liable for any special, direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tort, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Service or the contents of the Service. The Company reserves the right to make additions, deletions, or modifications to the contents on the Service at any time without prior notice.

The Company does not warrant this website in any way.

External Links Disclaimer

This website may contain links to external websites that are not provided or maintained by or in any way affiliated with the Company.

Please note that the Company does not guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of any information on these external websites.

Errors and Omissions Disclaimer

The information given by SCARS is for general guidance on matters of interest only. Even if the Company takes every precaution to ensure that the content of this website is both current and accurate, errors can occur. Plus, given the changing nature of laws, rules, and regulations, there may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in the information contained on this website.

SCARS is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Fair Use Disclaimer

SCARS may use copyrighted material that has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Company is making such material available for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

The Company believes this constitutes a “fair use” of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the United States Copyright law.

If You wish to use copyrighted material from this website for your own purposes that go beyond fair use, You must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Views Expressed Disclaimer

The Service may contain views and opinions which are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other author, agency, organization, employer, or company, including SCARS.

Comments published by users are their sole responsibility and the users will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The Company is not liable for any comment published by users and reserves the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever.

No Responsibility Disclaimer

The information on the Service is provided with the understanding that the Company is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, medical or mental health, or other professional advice and services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting, tax, legal, medical or mental health, or other competent advisers.

In no event shall the Company, its team, board of directors, volunteers, or its suppliers be liable for any special, incidental, indirect, or consequential damages whatsoever arising out of or in connection with your access or use or inability to access or use the Service.

“Use at Your Own Risk” Disclaimer

All information on this website is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including, but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

SCARS will not be liable to You or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information given by the Service or for any consequential, special, or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Disclaimer, You can contact Us:

  • By email:

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.






This content and other material contained on the website, apps, newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical, legal, or financial advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for licensed or regulated professional advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider, lawyer, financial, or tax professional with any questions you may have regarding the educational information contained herein. SCARS makes no guarantees about the efficacy of information described on or in SCARS’ Content. The information contained is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible situations or effects. SCARS does not recommend or endorse any specific professional or care provider, product, service, or other information that may be mentioned in SCARS’ websites, apps, and Content unless explicitly identified as such.

The disclaimers herein are provided on this page for ease of reference. These disclaimers supplement and are a part of SCARS’ website’s Terms of Use. 

All original content is Copyright © 1991 – 2023 Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. (Registered D.B.A SCARS) All Rights Reserved Worldwide & Webwide. Third-party copyrights acknowledge.

U.S. State of Florida Registration Nonprofit (Not for Profit) #N20000011978 [SCARS DBA Registered #G20000137918] – Learn more at

View the claimed and or registered indicia, service marks, and trademarks of Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc., All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Contact the law firm for the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated by email at

Share This Information - Choose Your Social Media!

Please Leave A Comment - Tell Us What You Think About This!