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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2005 Jan;88(1):50-62.

Here's looking at me: the effect of memory perspective on assessments of personal change.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Five studies manipulated the memory perspective (1st-person vs. 3rd-person) individuals used to visually recall autobiographical events and examined its effects on assessments of personal change. Psychotherapy clients recalled their first treatment (Study 1), and undergraduates recalled past social awkwardness (Study 2). Participants who were induced to recall from the 3rd-person perspective believed, and acted as though (Study 2), they had changed more since the events occurred. Subsequent studies revealed a crucial moderator: Third-person recall produces judgments of greater self-change when people are inclined to look for evidence of change, but lesser self-change when they are inclined to look for evidence of continuity. This pattern emerged when motivation (Studies 1 and 2), goals (Study 3), instructions (Study 4), and self-esteem (Study 5) determined participants' focus on change versus continuity. Results have implications for constructivism in memory and judgment and for the ability to sustain self-improvement efforts.

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