Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When Self-interest can hide behind the violence of the state...

Self-Interest Without Selfishness: The Hedonic Benefit of Imposed Self-Interest

Jonathan Berman & Deborah Small
Psychological Science, forthcoming

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.

This makes a lot of sense.  People would feel terrible if they robbed a liquor store and took the money.  But if the STATE takes the money at gunpoint, and "gives" it you....cool!  Now I'm happy!  Because I didn't do the stealing, I just get the benefit of the stealing!

Nod to Kevin Lewis


kebko said...

Barging into your office to demand a raise vs. marching in the streets for your union.

Max said...

This truer for a lot of people than you might think. I met some far leftist artists in Israel and they told me that they hate to get money through charity because they hate the people that are giving it as because of them being superficial. However they have no problem to get it through the state. They find it easier and fairer..

Tom said...

Someone feels "uneasy about sacrificing the needs of others for their own gain"? Ok, but what's that got to do with selfishness? ... or "self-interest"?

I see it, now: Berman and Small are part of that conspiracy that wants us to believe life is a zero-sum game, that one can ONLY gain, if others are hurt. Gee, do you think THAT attitude might be part of the problem?!