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

When it comes to politics, we often perceive our own beliefs as fair and socially beneficial, while seeing opposing views as merely self-serving. But in fact most political views are governed by self-interest, even if we usually don’t realize it. Challenging our fiercely held notions about what motivates us politically, this book explores how self-interest divides the public on a host of hot-button issues, from abortion and the legalization of marijuana to same-sex marriage, immigration, affirmative action, and income redistribution.

Expanding the notion of interests beyond simple economics, Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban look at how people’s interests clash when it comes to their social status, family, and friends. Drawing on a wealth of data, they demonstrate how different groups form distinctive bundles of political positions that often stray far from what we typically think of as liberal or conservative. They show how we engage in unconscious rationalization to justify our political positions, portraying our own views as wise, benevolent, and principled while casting our opponents’ views as thoughtless and greedy.

While many books on politics seek to provide partisans with new ways to feel good about their own side, The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind illuminates the hidden drivers of our politics, even if it’s a picture neither side will find flattering.



“The ideas that Weeden and Kurzban explore in this book are transformative. They will get people thinking and talking about human behavior, morality, and politics in entirely new ways. The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind is an important book.”

—Joshua Tybur, VU University Amsterdam

“Weeden and Kurzban are brilliant thinkers who provide a broader, deeper, and occasionally unsettling new perspective on how our self-interest influences our choices—even choices made by those of us who cherish the belief that we are not motivated by self-interest. Read it and weep, or laugh.”

—Douglas T. Kenrick, coauthor of The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think