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Motivated misremembering of selfish decisions


Carlson, Ryan W; Maréchal, Michel; Oud, Bastiaan; Fehr, Ernst; Crockett, Molly J (2020). Motivated misremembering of selfish decisions. PsyArXiv Preprints 7ck25, Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science.

Abstract

People often prioritize their own interests, but also like to see themselves as moral. How do individuals resolve this tension? One way to both pursue personal gain and preserve a moral self-image is to misremember the extent of one’s selfishness. Here, we test this possibility. Across five experiments (N=3190), we find that people tend to recall being more generous in the past than they actually were, even when they are incentivized to recall their decisions accurately. Crucially, this motivated misremembering effect occurs chiefly for individuals whose choices violate their own fairness standards, irrespective of how high or low those standards are. Moreover, this effect disappears under conditions where people no longer perceive themselves as responsible for their fairness violations. Together, these findings suggest that when people’s actions fall short of their personal standards, they may misremember the extent of their selfishness, thereby potentially warding off threats to their moral self-image.

Abstract

People often prioritize their own interests, but also like to see themselves as moral. How do individuals resolve this tension? One way to both pursue personal gain and preserve a moral self-image is to misremember the extent of one’s selfishness. Here, we test this possibility. Across five experiments (N=3190), we find that people tend to recall being more generous in the past than they actually were, even when they are incentivized to recall their decisions accurately. Crucially, this motivated misremembering effect occurs chiefly for individuals whose choices violate their own fairness standards, irrespective of how high or low those standards are. Moreover, this effect disappears under conditions where people no longer perceive themselves as responsible for their fairness violations. Together, these findings suggest that when people’s actions fall short of their personal standards, they may misremember the extent of their selfishness, thereby potentially warding off threats to their moral self-image.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Decision-making, generosity, memory, morality, motivation
Language:English
Date:16 April 2020
Deposited On:23 Jan 2019 10:17
Last Modified:22 Apr 2020 12:49
Series Name:PsyArXiv Preprints
Number of Pages:45
Additional Information:Updated version, earlier title: Motivated misremembering: selfish decisions are more generous in hindsight (2018)
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/7ck25
Official URL:https://psyarxiv.com/7ck25/

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