Defining greed

Terri G. Seuntjens*, Marcel Zeelenberg, Seger M. Breugelmans, Niels van de Ven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although greed is both hailed as the motor of economic growth and blamed as the cause of economic crises, very little is known about its psychological underpinnings. Five studies explored lay conceptualizations of greed among US and Dutch participants using a prototype analysis. Study 1 identified features related to greed. Study 2 determined the importance of these features; the most important features were classified as central (e.g., self-interested, never satisfied), whereas less important features were classified as peripheral (e.g., ambition, addiction). Subsequently, we found that, compared to peripheral features, participants recalled central features better (Study 3), faster (Study 4), and these central features were more present in real-life episodes of greed (Study 5). These findings provide a better understanding of the elements that make up the experience of greed and provide insights into how greed can be manipulated and measured in future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-525
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


  • Emotions
  • Greed
  • Prototype analysis


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