, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 189-202

Self-Interest, Automaticity, and the Psychology of Conflict of Interest

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Abstract

This paper argues that self-interest and concern for others influence behavior through different cognitive systems. Self-interest is automatic, viscerally compelling, and often unconscious. Understanding one's ethical and professional obligations to others, in contrast, often involves a more thoughtful process. The automatic nature of self-interest gives it a primal power to influence judgment and make it difficult for people to understand its influence on their judgment, let alone eradicate its influence. This dual-process view offers new insights into how conflict of interest operate and it suggests some new avenues for addressing them or limiting some of their greatest dangers.