Exaggerating current and past performance: motivated self-enhancement versus reconstructive memory

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2006 Aug;32(8):1114-25. doi: 10.1177/0146167206288600.


The authors propose distinct reasons why individuals exaggerate their current and past performance. Current performance is of motivational and self-evaluative significance, and exaggerations of current performance often stem from motivated self-enhancement concerns. Self-reports of past performance are influenced less by motivated self-enhancement, instead reflecting more subtle biases in reconstructive memory. For students currently in college, grade point averages (GPAs) reflect a currently important goal pursuit, whereas Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores reflect a goal that was important in the past. Study 1 demonstrated that dispositional self-enhancement predicted greater GPA (but not SAT) exaggeration, whereas advanced class standing predicted greater SAT (but not GPA) exaggeration. Study 2 demonstrated that a self-affirmation manipulation attenuated the association between dispositional self-enhancement and GPA exaggeration but not the association between class standing and SAT exaggeration. The distinction between motivated self-enhancement and reconstructive memory bias has important implications for the broader literature on self-evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Motivation*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Concept*