No Self-Serving Bias in Therapists' Evaluations of Clients' Premature Treatment Termination: An approximate replication of Murdock et al. (2010)

Brechje Dandachi-FitzGerald*, Laura Meijs, Isabelle M A J Moonen, Harald Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In an often-cited study, Murdock et al. (2010) found that therapists are more likely to attribute premature treatment termination to client characteristics than to themselves, a finding that the authors interpreted in terms of a Self-Serving Bias (SSB). We replicated and extended the study of Murdock et al. (2010, study 2), Psychologists and psychotherapists (N = 91) read two case vignettes about premature treatment terminations of clients that in a between-subjects set-up, were either described as own clients or other therapists' clients. Next, participants used three attribution subscales (blaming therapist, client, and situation) to evaluate potential causes for the premature terminations. This way, we tested whether participants would manifest SSB. We also investigated whether therapists' -scores on self-confidence and need for closure were linked to SSB tendencies. Unlike Murdock et al. (2010), we found no overall SSB. However, a stronger need for closure was related to more SSB tendencies (i.e., less endorsement of "blame therapist" attributions) in the own-client-condition (r = -.35, p <.05, r2 = .12), but not in the other-therapist's-client-condition (r = .17, p = .27). Our results suggest that SSB is not a ubiquitous phenomenon when therapists evaluate premature termination problems and that their willingness to attend to their own role depends to some extent on their need for closure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)972-981
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Psychology & Psychotherapy
Issue number3
Early online date4 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • NEED
  • need for closure
  • psychotherapy
  • replication study
  • self-confidence
  • self-serving bias
  • therapy dropout

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