The Power of the Myth of Self-Interest

  • Dale T. Miller
  • Rebecca K. Ratner
Part of the Critical Issues in Social Justice book series (CISJ)


Self-interest is the cardinal human motive, or so many of the most influential theories of human behavior would have us believe. Theories as diverse as evolutionary biology, neo-classical economics, behaviorism, and psychoanalysis all assume that people actively and single-mindedly pursue their self-interest, whether it be embodied in reproductive fitness, utility maximization, reinforcement, or wish fulfillment (Schwartz, 1986). On the other hand, much of the most interesting social science research of the last twenty years points to inadequacy of self-interest models of behavior (for reviews, see Batson, 1991; Etzioni, 1988; Kohn, 1990; Lerner, 1980; Mansbridge, 1990; Sears & Funk, 1990; Sen, 1977; Tyler & Dawes, 1993). We now know that people often care more about the fairness of the procedures they are subjected to than about the material outcomes these procedures yield (Tyler, 1990), that they often care more about their group’s collective outcomes than about their personal outcomes (Dawes, van de Kragt & Orbell, 1988), and that their attitudes toward public policies are often shaped more by their values and ideologies than by the impact these policies have on their material well-being (Sears & Funk, 1990).


Minority Student Vested Interest Vote Behavior Neoclassical Economic Flat Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dale T. Miller
    • 1
  • Rebecca K. Ratner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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