On the role of social norms in the expression of self-interest.

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On the role of social norms in the expression of self-interest.

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The present studies are designed to enhance our understanding of the possible role that social norms play in the expression of self-interested or value-oriented thinking when evaluating social policies. The power of self-interest has long been afforded the front seat when explaining human behavior in a number of intellectual domains, but the direct effect(s) of self-interest on policy evaluations has been unclear. Previous work has examined the role of clarity and cognitive accessibility of self-interest in understanding how self-interest is expressed, and I introduce another variable that may play a role in the expression of self-interest: social norms. I hypothesized that the accessibility of social norms for how to think about a policy vary, inhibiting or facilitating the expression of self-interested thinking or value-oriented thinking. I also hypothesized that the perception of social norms has an independent effect on people's thoughts surrounding a policy, such that a norm of self-interest will cause people to behave in more self-interested ways, and a norm of values will cause people to behave in more value-oriented ways. Study 1 tested whether a perceived social norm causes people to express self-interest or value-oriented thinking in accordance with a manipulated norm. Results partially supported this hypothesis, with participants presenting more value-oriented comments when cues indicated value-oriented thinking was desirable, presenting more self-interested comments when cues indicated self-interested thinking was desirable, and participants rating themselves marginally more concerned about self-interest when the cue indicated self-interested thinking was desirable and participants believed they would share their answers with a fellow student. Study 2 tested the independent effects of cognitive priming and salience of social norms on participants' thoughts surrounding a fictitious policy proposal. Results were mixed, which was likely due to unexpected effects of the priming and cue manipulations in the chosen domain. Findings and implications are discussed, as is the existence of a norm of self-interest.


UNiversity of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2010. Major: Psychology. Advisors: Eugene Borgida, Marti Hope Gonzales. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 159 pages, appendices A-J. Ill. (some col.)

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Kim, Anita. (2010). On the role of social norms in the expression of self-interest.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/93921.

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