I'm looking for the name of the cognitive bias that leads people to think that they are extraordinary in some aspect.

This is similar to Illusory Superiority but generalized to encompass uniqueness in general, not just positive traits.

It's the "Why is it always me?" bias.

This is the belief that unusual things happen more often to you, and is typically caused by the fact that unusual things get more of your attention when they happen to you rather than when they happen to others.

I'm not looking for a disorder, I'm looking for the name of the trait that is common in nearly everyone such that they think that things that they don't notice in other people is believed to only happen to them.

  • "American"? /duck – Kevin Oct 15 '13 at 23:36
  • For some contexts, special snowflake may be appropriate, but I wouldn't use it for this concept in general. – Bradd Szonye Oct 15 '13 at 23:56
  • I don't think it fits exactly, but it's worth considering: Egocentric bias In particular it mentions: Besides simply claiming credit for positive outcomes, which might simply be self-serving bias, people exhibiting egocentric bias also cite themselves as overly responsible for negative outcomes of group behavior as well – Jim Oct 16 '13 at 0:10
  • The self-messianic chosen-one delusional syndrome. – Blessed Geek Oct 16 '13 at 1:38
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    If you check the list of cognitive biases on wikipedia, and look at the details, you'll notice that almost all such biases are variations on errors caused by the idiosyncracy of personal experience. THat is, they're -all- biases of the individual being special. There is one by name though the bias blind spot which is unfortunately a meta-bias that oneself doesn't have the biases that others do. So close but no cigar. – Mitch Oct 18 '13 at 0:57

Falsely inferring a pattern where none exists is known as a type 1 error in statistics.

In this case the subject is under a delusion of self-reference, attributing undue importance to self in the events around him i.e. centered in (on) oneself, which is self-centring.

The general term for this cognitive bias - of seeing patterns in random events or data - is apophenia (apo - away [hence not true] phainein- to show). So I guess your subject might be under a self-centring apophenia, or in other words guilty of self-centring type 1 error.There might me a more specific term for it but I can't think of any.

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self-importance : 'Excessively high regard for one's own importance or station; conceit'

  • an Anglo-Saxon synonym for: 'self-centred, vain, selfish, narcissistic, self-absorbed, egotistical, inward looking, self-important, self-obsessed, self-seeking, egoistic, egoistical'

and possibly also:

presumptuous : 'characterized by presumption or tending to presume; bold; forward'

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What you're describing is a person who thinks of himself/herself as exceptional in the original sense of the word - in different situations (s)he might think of himself/herself as being better than others, worse than others, or different in a way that invalidates any comparison. These days "exceptional" is often used to mean "better than", but the original meaning survives in phrases like "American exceptionalism" or "European exceptionalism" (in this case, the term might be something like "self-exceptionalism").

As far as an actual scientific term, you seem to be looking for an umbrella term covering several psychological terms for more specific biases, including:

Confirmation bias - The tendency to accept evidence that supports what we already believe and discard evidence that would force us to change our thinking.

Self-serving bias - The tendency to believe that our successes come from our own attributes, while our failures are the result of external factors beyond our control.

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regarding everything only in relation to oneself; self-centred; selfish

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  • 'self-importance' is more Anglo-Saxon, see my answer for synonyms... – smci Oct 16 '13 at 23:58

How about Narcissism

Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms may include:

Believing that you're better than others
Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
Exaggerating your achievements or talents
Expecting constant praise and admiration
Believing that you're special and acting accordingly
Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
Taking advantage of others
Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
Being jealous of others
Believing that others are jealous of you
Trouble keeping healthy relationships
Setting unrealistic goals
Being easily hurt and rejected
Having a fragile self-esteem
Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
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    I think the question is looking for something more general – narcissism is a pretty specific disorder, but most people think they're somehow unique and special. – Bradd Szonye Oct 15 '13 at 23:55
  • Agreed. I'm not looking for a disorder, I'm looking for the name of the trait that is common in nearly everyone such that they think that things that they don't notice in other people is believed to only happen to them. – tylerl Oct 16 '13 at 0:08
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    Fair enough. How about self-obsessed? – Mynamite Oct 16 '13 at 8:18
  • Would the downvoters please explain their reasons? Downvoting without an explanation is not helpful either to me or the OP. – Mynamite Oct 16 '13 at 19:27
  • I didn't downvote, but I suspect that they're objecting for the reasons given by me and the OP above. – Bradd Szonye Oct 17 '13 at 23:30

I would say that such person suffers from delusions of grandeur or grandiose delusions.

delusions of grandeur - a delusion (common in paranoia) that you are much greater and more powerful and influential than you really are

If you just want one word I would go with delusional. When used in context it has the same meaning.

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  • Believe it or not some people actually do get bullied, especially some children. The tone of these answers seem quite complacent to me, and perhaps go some way to explain an instinct in humans not dissimilar from turkeys in a confined cage, where they will literally peck one of their number to death. What is a word which means 'having the characteristic of turkeys'? – WS2 Oct 16 '13 at 11:39
  • OP has clarified that he's looking for the name of a common cognitive bias that affects most people, not an abnormal disorder or delusion. – Bradd Szonye Oct 17 '13 at 23:28
  • @BraddSzonye - You don't think most people are a little delusional? – RyeɃreḁd Oct 18 '13 at 5:29

An important possibility not yet mentioned is the psychological concept of suffering from ideas (or delusions) of reference. Here the 'reference' concept is about the fact that external phenomena are interpreted as being targeted specially at the person so described.


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