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Motivated misremembering: selfish decisions are more generous in hindsight


Carlson, Ryan W; Maréchal, Michel; Oud, Bastiaan; Fehr, Ernst; Crockett, Molly J (2018). Motivated misremembering: selfish decisions are more generous in hindsight. PsyArXiv Preprints -, Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science.

Abstract

<p>People often prioritize their own interests, but also like to see themselves as moral. How do individuals resolve this tension? One way to both maximize self-interest and maintain a moral self-image is to misremember the extent of one’s selfishness. Here, we tested this possibility. Across three experiments, participants decided how to split money with anonymous partners, and were later asked to recall their decisions. Participants systematically recalled being more generous in the past than they actually were, even when they were incentivized to recall accurately. Crucially, this effect was driven by individuals who gave less than what they personally believed was fair, independent of how objectively selfish they were. Our findings suggest that when people’s actions fall short of their own personal standards, they may misremember the extent of their selfishness, thereby warding off negative emotions and threats to their moral self-image.

Abstract

<p>People often prioritize their own interests, but also like to see themselves as moral. How do individuals resolve this tension? One way to both maximize self-interest and maintain a moral self-image is to misremember the extent of one’s selfishness. Here, we tested this possibility. Across three experiments, participants decided how to split money with anonymous partners, and were later asked to recall their decisions. Participants systematically recalled being more generous in the past than they actually were, even when they were incentivized to recall accurately. Crucially, this effect was driven by individuals who gave less than what they personally believed was fair, independent of how objectively selfish they were. Our findings suggest that when people’s actions fall short of their own personal standards, they may misremember the extent of their selfishness, thereby warding off negative emotions and 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:12 December 2018
Deposited On:23 Jan 2019 10:17
Last Modified:23 Jan 2019 10:27
Series Name:PsyArXiv Preprints
Number of Pages:30
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/7ck25
Official URL:https://psyarxiv.com/7ck25/

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