Collective Memory of Political Events: Social Psychological Perspectives

By James W. Pennebaker; Dario Paez et al. | Go to book overview

cring inhabitants, and burning down Moslem and Jewish places of worship (including those that were full of terrified refugees).


CONCLUSIONS

This survey has suggested that group memories are systematically distorted in a variety of ways to maintain a positive image of the group. Sometimes these distortions are initiated in a deliberate, intentional fashion, such as in the efforts by totalitarian regimes to rewrite history. Other times, perhaps, they result from well-meaning efforts to furnish a truthful account. The line between deliberate and unintentional distortion is inevitably a fuzzy one, because self-deception cannot succeed if it is recognized as such, by definition.

Whatever the motives and intentions of the people who start the distortions, one must also recognize the important role played by the people who listen, accept, and pass along these biased views. People want to think well of their social group, and so even if they are equally exposed to truthful and flattering versions of the past, they may find it easier to understand, remember, and repeat the flattering ones.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Preparation of this chapter was facilitated by NIMH grants MH 43826 and MH 51482.


REFERENCES

Associated Press. ( 1994). "Japanese minister quits over war gaffe." Charlottesvile Daily Progress, May 8.

Baumeister R. F. (in press). "Evil." Inside human violence and cruelty. New York: Freeman.

Baumeister R. F., & Newman L. S. ( 1994). "Self-regulation of cognitive inference and decision processes." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 3-19.

Becker E. ( 1986). When the war was over. New York: Simon & Schuster/Touchstone.

Conquest R. ( 1990). The Great Terror: A reassessment. New York: Oxford University Press.

Duncan L. E., & Agronic G. S. ( 1995). "The intersection of life stage and social events: Personality and life outcomes." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 558-568.

Greenwald A. G. ( 1980). "The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history." American Psychologist, 35, 603-618.

Gur R. C., & Sackeim H. A. ( 1979). "Self-deception: A concept in search of a phenomenon." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 147-169.

"Japan and the war: The Japan that cannot say sorry." ( 1995, August 12). The Economist, 336( 7927), 31-33.

Keegan J. ( 1993). A history of warfare. New York: Knopf.

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