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Motivated memory in dictator games

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  • Saucet, Charlotte
  • Villeval, Marie Claire

Abstract

The memory people have of their past behavior is one of the main sources of information about themselves. To study whether people retrieve their memory self-servingly in social encounters, we designed an experiment in which participants play binary dictator games and then have to recall the amounts allocated to the receivers. We find evidence of motivated memory through selective recalls: dictators remember more their altruistic than their selfish choices. A causal effect of the responsibility of decisions is identified, as the recall asymmetry disappears when options are selected randomly by the computer program. Incentivizing memory accuracy increases the percentage of dictators' correct recalls only when they behaved altruistically. In contrast, there is no clear evidence of motivated memory through biased memory errors, i.e., overly optimistic recalls: dictators recall selectively but do not bias the direction and magnitude of these recalls in a self-serving way.

Suggested Citation

  • Saucet, Charlotte & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2019. "Motivated memory in dictator games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 250-275.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:117:y:2019:i:c:p:250-275
    DOI: 10.1016/j.geb.2019.05.011
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    4. Silvia Saccardo & Marta Serra-Garcia, 2020. "Cognitive Flexibility or Moral Commitment? Evidence of Anticipated Belief Distortion," CESifo Working Paper Series 8529, CESifo.
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    8. Cristina Bicchieri & Eugen Dimant, 2018. "It's Not A Lie If You Believe It. Lying and Belief Distortion Under Norm-Uncertainty," PPE Working Papers 0012, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
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    10. Faia, Ester & Fuster, Andreas & Pezone, Vincenzo & Zafar, Basit, 2021. "Biases in information selection and processing: Survey evidence from the pandemic," SAFE Working Paper Series 307, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Motivated memory; Selective recall; Self-image; Dictator game; Experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers

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