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Sci Rep. 2017 Jan 23;7:41320. doi: 10.1038/srep41320.

Cognitive dissonance resolution depends on episodic memory.

Chammat M1,2, Karoui IE1,2, Allali S1,2, Hagège J1,2, Lehongre K1,2,3, Hasboun D1,2,4, Baulac M1,2,4,5, Epelbaum S1,2,5, Michon A5, Dubois B1,2,4,5, Navarro V1,2,4,5,6, Salti M7, Naccache L1,2,4,5,6.

Author information

INSERM, U 1127, F-75013, Paris, France.
Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, ICM, PICNIC Lab, F-75013, Paris, France.
CENIR, Centre de NeuroImagerie de Recherche, Paris, France.
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, Faculté de Médecine Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris, France.
AP-HP, Groupe hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Department of Neurology, Paris, France.
AP-HP, Groupe hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Department of Neurophysiology, Paris, France.
Ben-Gurion University, Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, Beer-Sheva, Israel.


The notion that past choices affect preferences is one of the most influential concepts of social psychology since its first report in the 50 s, and its theorization within the cognitive dissonance framework. In the free-choice paradigm (FCP) after choosing between two similarly rated items, subjects reevaluate chosen items as more attractive and rejected items as less attractive. However the relations prevailing between episodic memory and choice-induced preference change (CIPC) remain highly debated: is this phenomenon dependent or independent from memory of past choices? We solve this theoretical debate by demonstrating that CIPC occurs exclusively for items which were correctly remembered as chosen or rejected during the choice stage. We used a combination of fMRI and intra-cranial electrophysiological recordings to reveal a modulation of left hippocampus activity, a hub of episodic memory retrieval, immediately before the occurrence of CIPC during item reevaluation. Finally, we show that contrarily to a previous influential report flawed by a statistical artifact, this phenomenon is absent in amnesic patients for forgotten items. These results demonstrate the dependence of cognitive dissonance on conscious episodic memory. This link between current preferences and previous choices suggests a homeostatic function of this regulative process, aiming at preserving subjective coherence.

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