Reflection of self-serving biases on memory representations : the unconscious effects of hedonic and utilitarian consumption

  • Luca Orsenigo (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The literature on consumer behavior already revealed that hedonic consumption suffers from the stigma of being considered as wasteful and unnecessary due to underlying cultural and religious beliefs. Therefore, consumers indulging in hedonic consumption commonly experience feelings of guilt and need for justification. Additionally, people act according to the sacrosanct belief that the self is a moral, lovable, and capable individual. When they are threatened by potential evidence that is in contrast with that belief, consumers unconsciously adapt their behavior to restore a flattering self-image. This study tackles the implications of hedonic and utilitarian consumption by investigating the reflection of self-serving biases on memory, which is subject to distortions through a process called belief-harmonization. The feeling of guilt related to hedonic consumption is expected toactivate compensatory mechanisms and lead to the occurrence of memory distortions. An online survey was distributed, dividing participants into two manipulation conditions: self threat and self-affirmation. Respondents were presented with a situation in which they theoretically purchased a product that featured both hedonic and utilitarian attributes, which they had to recall a few minutes later, after a distraction task. The results exhibited a strong impact of hedonism and utilitarianism on memory distortions, which have been amplified by the manipulation. Participants exposed to self-threat recalled more utilitarian features then hedonic, where as those exposed to self-affirmation were more inclined to remember a greater number of hedonic attributes.
Date of Award15 Oct 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorJoão Niza Braga (Supervisor)


  • Hedonism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Consumption
  • Consumer behavior
  • Guilt
  • Self-serving Bias
  • Memory distortion
  • Self-threat
  • Self-affirmation


  • Mestrado em Gestão e Administração de Empresas

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