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Totalitarian Ego

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 10 months ago

Anthony Greenwald (1980) "The Totalitarian Ego: Fabrication and Revision of Personal History" (Full text PDF) American Psychologist, Vol. 35, No. 7


This paper pursues an interesting three-way analogy: biases that operate in human memory; totalitarian societies; and biases in science.


Three cognitive biases in memory


1. Egocentricity

Remembering the past "as if it were a drama in which self was a leading player." E.g. interpreting others' actions as responses to your own; remembering your own contributions to a group effort better than others'.

Memory is necessarily self-centred in one sense because you see things from your own perspective.

    Egocentricity e.g. Illusion of Control, Paranoia (as an extreme case)


2. Beneffectance

"Beneffectance" = "Beneficience" + "Effectance" In other words, this means perceiving oneself as responsible for desirable outcomes but not responsible for undesirable ones, e.g. forgetting failures more easily than successes; remembering one's contribution to to a group effort to have been better than average (an example of superiority bias)


Greenwald's references on Beneffectance are listed on a separate page.


3. Conservatism

Meaning "resistance to cognitive change"


A more up-to-date treatment of the unreliability and bias of memory is Daniel Schacter's Seven Sins of Memory.

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