Motivated False Memory

47 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2012 Last revised: 27 Mar 2017

Soo Hong Chew

National University of Singapore; National University of Singapore; HKUST

Wei Huang

Wuhan University

Xiaojian Zhao

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST)

Date Written: March 26, 2017


People often forget and sometimes fantasize. This paper reports a large-scale experiment on memory errors and their relation to preferential traits including time preference and attitudes toward risk and ambiguity. We observe systematic incidences of false memory in favor of positive events and selective amnesia in forgetting negative events. Intriguingly, both positive delusion and positive confabulation significantly relate to present bias, but this is not the case for positive amnesia. In an intra-person, multiple-self model, we demonstrate that positive false memory, rather than selective amnesia, serves to enhance confidence in one's future self in equilibrium, thereby accounting for our experimental finding.

Keywords: false memory, amnesia, delusion, confabulation, present bias

JEL Classification: C91, D03, D83, Z13

Suggested Citation

Chew, Soo Hong and Huang, Wei and Zhao, Xiaojian, Motivated False Memory (March 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Soo Hong Chew

National University of Singapore ( email )

1 Arts Link, AS2 #06-02
Singapore 117570, Singapore 119077

National University of Singapore ( email )

Mochtar Riady Building
15 Kent Ridge Drive
Singapore, 119245

HKUST ( email )

Clear Water Bay
Kowloon, Hong Kong

Wei Huang

Wuhan University ( email )

Wuhan University
No. 299 Bayi Rd
Wuhan, Hubei 430072

Xiaojian Zhao (Contact Author)

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) ( email )


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