Beyond Self-Interest Revisited


Hector O. Rocha, London Business School, Sussex Place, Regent's Park, London NW1 4SA, UK (


abstract  We revisit the self-interest view on human behaviour and its critique, and propose a framework, called self-love view, that integrates self-interest and unselfishness and provides different explanations of the relationship between preferences, behaviour, and outcomes. Proponents of self-interest as the only valid behavioural assumption argue for simplified assumptions and clear models in order to propose precise prescriptions, while critics to this self-interest view argue for realistic assumptions and rich descriptions in order to reach better explanations. This debate inhibits theoretical development because it faces the problem of incommensurability of standards for choosing among paradigms. We propose the concept of self-love, or the inclination of human beings to strive for their own good and perfection, to remove the assumption self-interest vs. unselfishness. Self-love distinguishes between the object and the subject of motivation and therefore creates a bi-dimensional motivational space. This framework replaces the unidimensional continuum self-interest–unselfishness, specifies eight interrelated motives, and provides different expected relationships between preferences, behaviour, and outcomes. We show that a better understanding of motivational assumptions, their embodiment in theories, and their influence on the very behaviours these theories assume provides managers and policymakers more alternatives for the designing of motivational contexts than in the case of assuming either self-interest or a permanent conflict between self-interest and unselfishness.