Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

Americans More Self-Interested Than Ever, Study Finds

Look at State of the Union addresses since 1790 found egotism rising during 20th century

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Americans' focus on themselves has been steadily rising since the turn of the 20th century, according to a new study.

University of Michigan researchers assessed self-interest (egotism) in the United States by using a special software program to analyze presidential State of the Union addresses from 1790 through 2012. In each of the speeches, the program measured the number of words that related to self-interest and those linked with concern for others.

Egotism was relatively low in the United States shortly after the country declared independence from Great Britain, the study found.

"The focus seemed to be on the needs of other people, rather than on the needs and desires of the president or people close to him," Sara Konrath, a social psychologist, said in a university news release.

Self-interest remained low during the 19th century but rose steadily throughout the 20th century, according to the study published recently in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

"We found that self-interest tends to peak after economic booms," study author William Chopik, a doctoral candidate in psychology, said in the news release. "In the 20th century, it peaked after World War II and again in the 1970s."

Self-interest did fall slightly after the 2008-09 recession, perhaps because "the challenges facing the country increased the nation's sense of togetherness and focus on the needs of others," Chopik said.

Why has Americans' self-interest steadily increased?

"Historical changes are complex, and it is hard to point a finger at one specific cause. However, with increasing prosperity for many Americans, there could be more emphasis on 'me, me, me,' with personal needs and desires taking precedence over community needs," Chopik said.

"And there may also be more pressure to succeed over the past couple of centuries. In some ways, we've become a more competitive society, and perhaps what we're seeing in presidential addresses is a reflection of this trend," he added.

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
senior man eating a cake
woman reading medicine warnings
depressed young woman
man with arms on table
man cringing and covering ears

WebMD Special Sections