Beyond self-serving bias: Diffusion of responsibility reduces sense of agency and outcome monitoring

Frederike Beyer*, Nura Sidarus, Sofia Bonicalzi, Patrick Haggard

*Corresponding author for this work
69 Citations (Scopus)


Diffusion of responsibility across agents has been proposed to underlie decreased helping and increased aggression in group behaviour. However, few studies have directly investigated effects of the presence of other people on how we experience the consequences of our actions. This EEG study investigated whether diffusion of responsibility simply reflects a post-hoc self-serving bias, or rather has direct effects on how we process the outcomes of our actions, and our experience of agency over them. Participants made voluntary actions whose outcomes were more or less negative. Presence of another potential agent reduced participants' sense of agency over those outcomes, even though it was always obvious who caused each outcome. Further, presence of another agent reduced the amplitude of feedback-related negativity evoked by outcome stimuli, suggesting reduced outcome monitoring. The presence of other agents may lead to diffusion of responsibility by weakening the neural linkage between one's actions and their outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)138-145
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2017

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 206-08 Cognitive and Systemic Human Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond self-serving bias: Diffusion of responsibility reduces sense of agency and outcome monitoring'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this