Remembering ourselves/revising the past: Are rose-colored glasses hard-wired?

By Michael McCauley As we work with companies to maximize their performance we often encounter a rather odd phenomenon: once the people in an organization have changed their behavior and internalized the new way of doing things, they deny ever having done things the old way. Even when we show them data that clearly illustrates the way they used to do things, they still deny that they ever engaged in the old, now outdated, behaviors. They claim that they have always done things the “right” way – i.e., the way they do them now.  How can that be? I’ve been reading an interesting book, Why We Make Mistakes   by Joseph Hallinan . Hallinan finds that this tendency to see and remember our actions in self-serving ways is so ingrained, and so subtle, that we often have no idea we’re doing it. He cites a study of recent high school graduates now attending a local college. They were asked to recall their high school grades; researchers compared their remembered grades against the actual transcripts. They found that no less than 29% of the recalled grades were wrong and far more grades were shifted up than down. This combined with other studies shows a significant predisposition for people to reconstruct their memories in positive, self-flattering ways. These findings are confirmed by Princeton Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman . He has found that that most people, after they change their mind or behavior, reconstruct their own past opinions in such a way as to truly believe that they always thought or acted in a certain way.  So, it seems that the responses we encounter are perfectly natural – people really don’t remember ever doing things the “old” way. It seems that we all wear “rose colored glasses” -they’re probably hard-wired, and we don’t even know it.]]>

Share this...

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.