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Failures are the stepping stones to success. However, most of us shy away from accepting the blame for our failures. It is very easy to blame others for our mistakes. Read on to find out why is it so easy to blame others?

Why is it easier to accept praise?

We will all agree that it is much easier to accept praise for the things that we have done right rather than to accept blame for something that we did not do right. It is our second nature to take credit for the smallest of things.

However, if we are instrumental in doing something that has gone totally wrong, we always look for scapegoats.

We look for people who can be blamed for the goof up so that we can absolve ourselves of the wrong doing. In fact, we all love to play the blame game as it releases us of the guilt associated with failure. On the contrary, for a majority of our accomplishments, we like to take all the credit ourselves rather than being thankful to the people who helped us succeed.

Why do we play the Blame Game?

A recently published study in the Current Biology journal suggests that when we are exposed to a negative stimulus, time seems to pass rather slowly. The study was led by Patrick Haggard and his fellow associates from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, at the University College London. The study tried to analyze the effect and perception of people when exposed to positive and negative stimuli. As per the study,

it was found that blaming others for a negative outcome helps in reducing an individual’s sense of agency. The sense of agency refers to the awareness of an individual that we are initiating, executing, and controlling our own voluntary actions.

As per the study, participants were asked to press keys. Each act of pressing the key was followed by positive cheers and sounds of achievement, negative sounds of fear and disgust, and neutral sounds. The researchers then asked the participants to specify when they had pressed the keys and when they had heard the sounds. The study found that a majority of the participants took longer time to press the key when they heard a negative sound. The outcome of the research indicates that people tend to feel less responsible for a negative outcome in comparison to a positive outcome.

This can be attributed to the fact that we tend to assign a sense of agency in small acts on a day-to-day basis. In simple acts such as turning on the ignition of our cars to switching off the lamp at night, we look forward to the outcome of our action. The sooner the act takes place after we initiate the cause, the more is the agency assigned to the task.

The same principle is applied by our brain while blaming others.When we do something wrong, for instance spilling a drink by mistake or insulting someone in a fit of anger, the time taken by the brain to react is longer in comparison to the reaction time after a positive stimulus such as a praise for your good work. 

The longer the brain takes to react, the less responsible you feel for your incorrect or wrong action. You end up feeling even less culpable for the consequences of such an action.

Patrick Haggard says that just because we feel less responsible for a negative outcome does not mean that we are less guilty. He emphasizes that we should accept responsibility for our actions and not how we experience things.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Negative Emotional Outcomes Attenuate Sense of Agency over Voluntary Actions”, by Michiko Yoshie, et al. Published in the Volume 23, Issue 20 of the Current Biology, accessed on November 8, 2013
  • “The sense of agency is action–effect causality perception based on cross-modal grouping” by Takahiro Kawabe, et al. Published in the June 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, accessed on November 8, 2013.
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