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

Richard H. Gramzow, Greg Willard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1114-1125
Number of pages12
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Memory bias
  • Self-affirmation
  • Self-enhancement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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