Professor in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology



Why the privatisation of public goods might fail (1997)

Van Vugt, M. (1997).  Why the privatisation of public goods might fail: A social dilemma approach. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63 , 355-366.



This study advanced a social dilemma analysis to examine the role of self-interested and prosocial concerns in the approval of a real-life structural solution: the privatization of the British national railway system in 1996.  As predicted, disapproval of privatizing this public good increased when people were more concerned about the transition costs of privatization, and about how privatization would affect their personal outcomes (e.g., travel convenience) and the outcomes for the collective (e.g., railway accessibility).  Moreover, the approval of privatization among people guided primarily by their self-interest (i.e., pro-self individuals) was influenced more strongly by personal outcome concerns.  Contrary to hypothesis, however, prosocial individuals' approval of privatization was not influenced more strongly by collective outcome concerns.  Finally, people who disapproved of privatization also exhibited a weaker intention to travel by train in the future, an indication that the willingness to engage in collectively desirable behavior may decrease when people fail to endorse a structural solution.

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