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Essays on the Behavioral Economics of Motivated Memory

Abstract : This thesis investigates whether individuals use their memory as a self-deceptive strategy to sustain motivated beliefs. It tests experimentally the existence and strength of memory manipulation in three economically relevant contexts: social interactions, individual performance and unethical decisions.Chapter one investigates whether people retrieve their memory self-servingly in social encounters. Do individuals forget the consequences of their actions on others? If so, does it depend on the nature (e.g. selfish or altruistic) of the action? Our results identify a causal effect of the responsibility of pro-social decisions on selective recalls. In contrast, there is no clear evidence of biased memory errors. Chapter two disentangles between two driving forces that have been proposed as explanations of memory failures for self-relevant information: self-enhancement and mood-congruency. We provide a controlled environment where the two theories predict different outcomes. Our results provide support for the existence and relative dominance of self-enhancing memory over mood-congruent memory and thereby underline the importance of motivational factors in the formation of optimistic beliefs about the self.Chapter three investigates the relative role of affect and strategic reasoning in motivated memory, with an application in the domain of unethical behavior. We study whether individuals manipulate the memory of past dishonest choices, and whether they use their memory as an instrument to justify future decisions. We find that hedonic considerations are not sufficient to trigger memory manipulation. When forgetting serves as a justification to not engage in future morally responsible behavior, however, individuals do motivate their memory.Together, these results show that memory errors in economic contexts can result from cognitive impairment but also from memory distortion motivated by the willingness to protect one's self-image and future choices.
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Charlotte Saucet. Essays on the Behavioral Economics of Motivated Memory. Economics and Finance. Université de Lyon, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019LYSEN069⟩. ⟨tel-02475660⟩



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