Economics and Greed

28 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2009 Last revised: 4 Nov 2009

Date Written: October 14, 2009


Greed is a classic topic in human development (Balot, 2001; Robertson, 2001) and it inevitably affects many of our choices and decisions. Although greed is typically viewed as uniformly negative and reprehensible, we propose that people's attitudes and opinions about greed are actually subject to change. In particular, studying economics may help legitimize and even beautify greed. Previous research shows that economics education might make people more self-interested because self-interest maximization is central to most economic models (Marwell & Ames, 1981; Frank, et al, 1993). Because greed and maximizing self-interest are sometimes difficult to separate, conceptually or empirically, we propose that studying economics may make people view greed as potentially positive and beneficial. Two complementary studies support our proposition. Study 1 shows that students who are pursuing economics view greed more positively than students who are pursuing other majors and taking other courses. Study 2 indicates that positively priming greed can significantly increase people's positive attitudes and opinions about greed.

Suggested Citation

Wang, Long and Murnighan, John Keith, Economics and Greed (October 14, 2009). 22nd Annual IACM Conference Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Long Wang (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

John Keith Murnighan

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Leverone Hall, 360
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-467-3566 (Phone)
847-491-8896 (Fax)

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