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Research Article

Self-Enhancement in Scientific Research: The Self-citation Bias


Marc Brysbaert ,

Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, BE
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Sinéad Smyth

Ghent University; University of Ulster, BE
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A typical psychology article contains 3 to 9 self-citations, depending on the length of the reference list (10% of all citations). In contrast, cited colleagues rarely receive more than 3 citations. This is what we call the self-citation bias: the preference researchers have to refer to their own work when they guide readers to the relevant literature. We argue that this finding is difficult to understand within the traditional, science-based view, which says that reference lists are there to help the reader. It is more easily understood within a social view of reference lists which argues that scientists form groups and that reference lists partly reflect well-known phenomena in social psychology and group dynamics. Within this view, the self-citation bias is a self-serving bias motivated by self-enhancement and self-promotion.
How to Cite: Brysbaert, M. and Smyth, S., 2011. Self-Enhancement in Scientific Research: The Self-citation Bias. Psychologica Belgica, 51(2), pp.129–137. DOI:
Published on 01 Aug 2011.
Peer Reviewed


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