What Is Self-consistency Bias?

Self-consistency bias is the commonly held idea that we are more consistent in our attitudes, opinions, and beliefs than we actually are, i.e. being unable to see the changes in your thoughts/opinions because you’re sure you’ve always thought the same way.

In psychology and cognitive science, a memory bias is a cognitive bias that either enhances or impairs the recall of a memory (either the chances that the memory will be recalled at all, or the amount of time it takes for it to be recalled, or both), or that alters the content of a reported memory. There are many different types of memory biases.

An example of the self-consistency would be going on a blind date and not being thrilled about the date, but years later telling people how amazing that date was after you’ve fallen in love with the person. Another example: thinking that because you love chocolate now you’ve always loved it, but in reality you hated it when you were younger.

Self-consistency Bias Research

In a 2002 study by Linda J. Levine, Martin Safer, and others, undergraduate students were asked to rate their anxiety and emotions approaching a midterm exam as well as one week after the exam. Those who found out they had done well generally underestimated pre-test anxiety while those who found out they did poorly generally overestimated pre-test anxiety.

Their emotional states after the test caused the students to have a distorted memory of pre-test anxiety. Personality traits contributed to the levels of pre-test anxiety also, which later caused more distortion in the recalling same anxiety levels.

Students with typically positive attitudes were found to be more likely to later rate pre-test anxiety levels based on their current emotional state after the test. Overestimating pre-midterm anxiety caused students to be more likely to study more as well as be more stressed out as any future exams approached.