442 Misremembering Selfishness

Research by Carlson, Ryan; Marechal, Michel Andre; Oud, Bastiaan; Fehr, Ernst; Crockett, Molly (2018). Motivated misremembering of selfish decisions. Nature Communications. doi:10.31234/osf.io/7ck25

Written by Robin N. Fatovic B.S

How do people cope when acting below their standards?

Psychologist Ryan Carlson and colleagues tested this across five studies with 3200 participants. The participants allocated money to themselves and to an anonymous partner. The researchers offered them a portion of the money if they remembered how much money they gave to their partners.

Results? Participants who were more frugal compared to their personal standards of fairness reported giving more money than they truly did. The researchers call this event “misremembering,” as there is a motivation to not remember the actions that make us appear less moral according to our own prior measured principles. However, when researchers required participants to give a certain amount less than their prior standard of generosity, participants had no need to portray themselves as more generous than they acted. Thus, they did not“misremember.” Having personal responsibility impacts our misremembering.

The researchers believe we misremember actions that do not meet our standards for generosity, thus preserving our own self-image and sense of morality. Our minds protect us from believing we are selfish. When making decisions to act towards others, first ask, “Is this fair, generous, in line with my ideals?”

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