Motivated recruitment of autobiographical memories

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1990 Aug;59(2):229-41. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.59.2.229.


We hypothesized that people motivated to believe that they possess a given trait search for autobiographical memories that reflect that trait, so as to justify their desired self-view. We led subjects to believe that either extraversion or introversion was desirable, and obtained convergent evidence from open-ended memory-listing tasks as well as from reaction-time tasks measuring the speed with which memories could be generated that this manipulation enhanced the accessibility of memories reflecting the desired trait. If people rely on their memories to construct desired self-concepts, motivated changes in self-concepts should be constrained by the content of available memories. Our final study demonstrates such constraints.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adult
  • Extraversion, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Introversion, Psychological
  • Mental Recall*
  • Motivation*
  • Personality Development*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Self Concept*