Does studying economics make you selfish?

A fascinating discussion took place on Morning Edition just a few moments ago. Shankar Vedantum shared the results of a recent study that tries to determine whether there is a connection between the classic economics ideal of “rational self-interest” and generosity. If you want to listed to it, go here.

It turns out that listening to a lesson on self-interest corresponds to a 50% reduction in generosity.

Some subjects were given $20; other subjects were not given any money. Both were told that those with cash could make a single deal with the others, and that it was not subject to negotiation–it would be final.

Under these circumstances the average deal was close to a 50/50 split. On average the person with the cash gave the other person $8.50.

After listening to a lecture on self-interest that average amount was reduced to $4.50–an approximately 50% reduction. 

What’s the lesson?

Surely part of it is that we respond positively to expectations of what normal behavior is. 

Would a church where the pastor regularly talks about generosity as a normal part of discipleship be a more generous church?

What do you think? Tell me below in the comments.

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