Psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking

Samuel G. B. Johnson, Jiewen Zhang, Frank C. Keil

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

A core proposition in economics is that voluntary exchanges benefit both parties. We show that people often deny the mutually beneficial nature of exchange, instead using zero-sum thinking. Participants read about simple exchanges of goods and services, judging whether each party to the transaction was better off or worse off afterwards. These studies revealed that zero-sum beliefs are pervasive. These beliefs seem to arise in part due to intuitive mercantilist beliefs that money has value over-and-above
what it can purchase, since buyers are seen as less likely to benefit than sellers, and barters are often seen as failing to benefit either party (Study 1). Zero-sum beliefs are greatly reduced by giving reasons for the exchange (Study 2), suggesting that a second mechanism underlying zero-sum thinking is a failure to spontaneously take the perspective of the buyer. Implications for politics and business are discussed.
LanguageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
Pages566-571
Number of pages6
StatusAccepted/In press - 15 Aug 2018

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Psychological
Buyers
Seller
Economics
Purchase
Barter

Cite this

Johnson, S. G. B., Zhang, J., & Keil, F. C. (Accepted/In press). Psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking. In Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 566-571)

Psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking. / Johnson, Samuel G. B. ; Zhang, Jiewen; Keil, Frank C.

Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. 2018. p. 566-571.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Johnson, SGB, Zhang, J & Keil, FC 2018, Psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking. in Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. pp. 566-571.
Johnson SGB, Zhang J, Keil FC. Psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking. In Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. 2018. p. 566-571.
Johnson, Samuel G. B. ; Zhang, Jiewen ; Keil, Frank C./ Psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. 2018. pp. 566-571
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