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Does Studying Economics Inhibit Cooperation?

  • Robert H. Frank
  • Thomas Gilovich
  • Dennis T. Regan

In this paper we investigate whether exposure to the self-interest model commonly used in economics alters the extent to which people behave in self-interested ways. First, we report the results of several empirical studies—some our own, some by others—that suggest economists behave in more self-interested ways. By itself, this evidence does not demonstrate that exposure to the self-interest model causes more self-interested behavior, since it may be that economists were simply more self-interested to begin with, and this difference was one reason they chose to study economics. Second, we present preliminary evidence that exposure to the self-interest model does in fact encourage self-interested behavior.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.7.2.159
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 7 (1993)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 159-171

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:7:y:1993:i:2:p:159-71
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.7.2.159
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  1. John R. Carter & Michael D. Irons, 1991. "Are Economists Different, and If So, Why?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 171-177, Spring.
  2. Marwell, Gerald & Ames, Ruth E., 1981. "Economists free ride, does anyone else? : Experiments on the provision of public goods, IV," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 295-310, June.
  3. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S285-300, October.
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