Misremembrance of Options Past: Source Monitoring and Choice

  title={Misremembrance of Options Past: Source Monitoring and Choice},
  author={Mary Lynn Mather and Eldar Shafir and Marcia K. Johnson},
  journal={Psychological Science},
  pages={132 - 138}
This study reveals that when remembering past decisions, people engage in choice-supportive memory distortion. When asked to make memory attributions of options' features, participants made source-monitoring errors that supported their decisions. They tended to attribute, both correctly and incorrectly, more positive features to the option they had selected than to its competitor. In addition, they sometimes attributed, both correctly and incorrectly, more negative features to the nonselected… 

Tables from this paper

Memory attributions for choices: How beliefs shape our memories

Remembering chosen and assigned options

The present experiments showed no choice-supportive memory bias for assigned options and the vividness heuristic leads to systematic misattribution of new features to unassigned alternatives, but not in a manner supportive of the assigned option.

Wishful thinking and source monitoring

Given that the source of a memory provides information about the accuracy of its content, people may be biased toward source attributions that are consistent with desired accuracy.

The role of free choice in memory for past decisions

The view that memory biases towards received options are not unique to free choice situations, but may stem from expectations and implicit theories about how and why the choice was made is supported.

Memory distorions resulting from a choice blindness task

Using a choice blindness paradigm, it is possible to switch decisions and outcomes in simple choice tasks. Such switches have been found to carry over into later choices, hypothesized to be mediated

Choice-supportive source monitoring: do our decisions seem better to us as we age?

It is suggested that as people age, their tendency to distort memory in favor of the options they chose increases and that affectively reviewing choices increases younger adults' tendency toward choice-supportive memory.

Memory distortions resulting from a choice blindness task

Investigation of participants’ memories for stimuli in a simple choice blindness task involving preferential choices between pairs of faces found source memory was impaired such that participants failing to detect the manipulation later misremembered recognized non-chosen faces as being previously chosen.

Choice-supportive misremembering: A robust phenomenon?

The results of the two experiments suggest that the type of stimuli used is a decisive factor and confirm that the phenomenon does not occur with the kind of materials typically used in the decision-making literature.

Choosing and learning: outcome valence differentially affects learning from free versus forced choices

It is suggested that a choice-confirmation bias is adaptive to the extent that it reinforces actions that are most likely to meet an individual’s needs, i.e. freely chosen actions.



Stereotypes as Source-Monitoring Cues: On the Interaction Between Episodic and Semantic Memory

This research examined the use of stereotypic expectancies as source cues for biographical memories. Participants were more likely to misattribute stereotypical than counterstereotypical behaviors to

Source monitoring.

It is argued that source monitoring is based on qualities of experience resulting from combinations of perceptual and reflective processes, usually requires relatively differentiated phenomenal experience, and involves attributions varying in deliberateness.


This study provides evidence that when source-specifying features are less available, people will rely more on their general knowledge to attribute memories to sources. Two factors (ageing and

Whodunit? Memory for evidence in text

Two experiments investigated people's memory for evidence in a detective story, exploring in particular the ways in which memory can be distorted by a person's interpretation of that evidence. In

On the pursuit and misuse of useless information.

The pursuit of noninstrumental information is documented and its effects on ensuing decisions are explored in a variety of social, consumer, and strategic situations.

Evaluating characteristics of false memories: Remember/know judgments and memory characteristics questionnaire compared

R rates of false recognition for lures were significantly lower than rates of correct recognition when items from various themes were intermixed instead of blocked at acquisition and subjects made MCQ ratings instead of RK judgments.

The case for motivated reasoning.

  • Z. Kunda
  • Philosophy
    Psychological bulletin
  • 1990
It is proposed that motivation may affect reasoning through reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes--that is, strategies for accessing, constructing, and evaluating beliefs--that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion.

Postdecision changes in the desirability of alternatives.

  • J. Brehm
  • Psychology
    Journal of abnormal psychology
  • 1956
The present study was designed to test the following: Choosing between two alternatives creates dissonance and a consequent pressure to reduce it, which is reduced by making the chosen alternative more desirable and the unchosen alternative less desirable after the choice than they were before it.

Reasons for confidence.

People are often overconfident in evaluating the correctness of their knowledge. The present studies investigated the possibility that assessment of confidence is biased by attempts to justify one's