Evidence of an 'end of history illusion' in the work motivations of public service professionals

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The 'end of history illusion' refers to the tendency of people to underestimate change in their future values and preferences. Could this cognitive bias apply to the work motivations of those in public service? To examine this question, a sample of public service professionals was asked about their current work motivations and then randomized to be 'reporters', who recalled their work motivations 10 years ago, and 'predictors', who forecast their work motivations 10 years from now. Predictors expected much less change in their work motivations over time than reporters actually experienced. Specifically, predictors underestimated the importance of helping others and of working independently, and they overestimated the importance of income. Thus, public service professionals, who are often assumed to have unique prosocial motivations, seem to be subject to an 'end of history illusion' when making decisions about what job characteristics will matter to them over the course of their careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-275
Number of pages13
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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