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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Motivated misremembering: Selfish decisions are more generous in hindsight

Ryan Carlson, Michel Marechal, Bastiaan Oud, Ernst Fehr, and Molly Crockett
Created on: July 22, 2018 | Last edited: July 22, 2018

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 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.

The research is here.
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