Revisiting the self-interest versus values debate: The role of temporal perspective

Corrie V. Hunt, Anita Kim, Eugene Borgida, Shelly Chaiken

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23 Scopus citations


Scholars of public opinion have struggled to explain why people often vote against their economic self-interest in favor of a value-based rationale. Based on Construal Level Theory (Liberman, Trope, & Stephan, 2007), we argue that both values and material self-interest affect social and political attitudes, but in different temporal contexts. Specifically, because material self-interest is more concrete and applicable to everyday concerns, we predict that it should carry more weight with regard to judgments made in the context of the near future. In contrast, values, which are more abstract by nature, should carry greater weight for judgments made in the distant future. In an experimental test of this hypothesis, we presented participants with a fictitious policy that affected their pocketbooks in an otherwise value-laden domain. We found that people's financial self-interest more strongly predicted attitudes toward a proposal to increase tuition in the near condition, whereas antiegalitarian values more strongly predicted attitudes in the far condition. These findings offer new insights into the symbolic politics debate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1155-1158
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Construal level
  • Self-interest
  • Social attitudes
  • Symbolic politics
  • Values


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