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Self-interest without selfishness: The hedonic benefit of imposed self-interest

Journal

Psychological Science

Subject

Marketing

Authors / Editors

Berman J Z;Small D A

Biographies

Publication Year

2012

Abstract

Despite commonsense appeal, the link between self-interest and happiness remains elusive. One reason why individuals may not feel satisfied with self-interest is that they feel uneasy about sacrificing the needs of others for their own gain. We propose that externally imposing self-interest allows individuals to enjoy self-benefiting outcomes that are untainted by self-reproach for failing to help others. Study 1 demonstrated that an imposed self-interested option (a reward) leads to greater happiness than does choosing between a self-interested option and a prosocial option (a charity donation). Study 2 demonstrated that this effect is not driven by choice in general; rather, it is the specific trade-off between benefiting the self and benefiting others that inhibits happiness gained from self-interest. We theorize that the agency inherent in choice reduces the hedonic value of self-interest. Results of Study 3 find support for this mechanism.

Keywords

Decsion making; Happiness; Self-interest; Selfishness

Available on ECCH

No


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