Abstract：Since “change is the only constant in life,” an interesting question is how many changes people believe they have experienced in the past. The present research investigates whether the perceived number of changes for oneself differs from it for others. Literature shows that people bring to mind only improvements when they think about “changes.” Based on motivated reasoning, we hypothesize that people will think that they have changed more than others because of a self-enhancement motive that they expect themselves to be good.
We conductedfour studies to test the hypothesis and its underlying mechanism. In Study 1, the participants assessed the number of global changes they or their friend had experienced over the past five years, and then indicated the direction of their own or their friend’s changes. Results showed that the participants believed that they had changed more than others. Moreover, the participants considered positive changes when thinking about their and others’ changes. Studies 2 and 3 replicated the basic pattern across domains (appearance and values) and extended the pattern into future changes. Study 4 found that the participants perceived that they had changed more than others because they expected themselves to begood more than others.
Our study shows a novel self–other difference and carries practical implications. Specifically, people may make poor decisions since they underestimate positive changes for others.