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The illusion of external agency is a set of attributional biases consisting of illusions of influence, insight and benevolence, proposed by Daniel Gilbert, Timothy D. Wilson, Ryan Brown and Elizabeth Pinel.
In a series of experiments, experimenters induced participants to rationalize a choice or experience (called the "optimizing" condition) after which they were more likely to make certain attributions of an external agent, as follows:
Gilbert et al. argued that "participants confused their own optimization of subjective reality with an external agents' optimizing of objective reality. Simply speaking, participants mistook 'the magic in here' for 'the magic out there.'"