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Am Psychol. 1999 Dec;54(12):1053-60.

The norm of self-interest.

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Department of Psychology, Princeton University NJ 08544-1010, USA.


The self-interest motive is singularly powerful according to many of the most influential theories of human behavior and the layperson alike. In the present article the author examines the role the assumption of self-interest plays in its own confirmation. It is proposed that a norm exists in Western cultures that specifies self-interest both is and ought to be a powerful determinant of behavior. This norm influences people's actions and opinions as well as the accounts they give for their actions and opinions. In particular, it leads people to act and speak as though they care more about their material self-interest than they do. Consequences of misinterpreting the "fact" of self-interest are discussed.

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