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The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind: How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It, Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban

Reviewed by Christopher Weber



Group interest often overshadows self-interest in the study of political behavior, political psychology, and public opinion research. In The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind, Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban challenge self-interest’s relegated status by refocusing attention on the role of self-interest in policy evaluation. Weeden and Kurzban argue that self-interest consists of more than “some material gain now or soon” (p. 36); instead, they “view self-interest as advancing any range of people’s typical goals, whether directly involving material gain or not, whether involving immediate gain or something more subtle and advances someone’s progress over the longer term” (p. 37).

This is a more inclusive definition, but in practice, the distinction between self and group interest is rarely straightforward. In many circumstances, group and self-interests align. This broad definition produces a degree of conceptual slippage throughout The Hidden Agenda, as it is occasionally difficult to differentiate group-versus self-oriented motives. In spite of this, the authors develop a theoretically and empirically convincing account regarding how fundamental exogenous factors—such as race, religion, gender, education, and income—intersect to produce policy preferences.


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