The Selfish Goal: Autonomously operating motivational structures as the proximate cause of human judgment and behavior Journal Article uri icon



  • AbstractWe propose the Selfish Goal model, which holds that a person's behavior is driven by psychological processes called goals that guide his or her behavior, at times in contradictory directions. Goals can operate both consciously and unconsciously, and when activated they can trigger downstream effects on a person's information processing and behavioral possibilities that promote only the attainment of goal end-states (and not necessarily the overall interests of the individual). Hence, goals influence a person as if the goals themselves were selfish and interested only in their own completion. We argue that there is an evolutionary basis to believe that conscious goals evolved from unconscious and selfish forms of pursuit. This theoretical framework predicts the existence of unconscious goal processes capable of guiding behavior in the absence of conscious awareness and control (theautomaticity principle), the ability of the most motivating or active goal to constrain a person's information processing and behavior toward successful completion of that goal (thereconfiguration principle), structural similarities between conscious and unconscious goal pursuit (thesimilarity principle), and goal influences that produce apparent inconsistencies or counterintuitive behaviors in a person's behavior extended over time (theinconsistency principle). Thus, we argue that a person's behaviors are indirectly selected at the goal level but expressed (and comprehended) at the individual level.

publication date

  • April 1, 2014

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • May 24, 2017 12:41 PM

Full Author List

  • Huang JY; Bargh JA

author count

  • 2

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0140-525X

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1469-1825

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 121

end page

  • 135


  • 37


  • 2