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Free-Choice Not Tied to Mental Well-Being

Free-Choice Not Tied to Mental Well-BeingWestern culture and American mores venerate the ability to make decisions based on free will. An underlying assumption is that this freedom will convey happiness and well-being.

New research suggests otherwise as choice may not be the key to happiness explains a study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“Americans live in a political, social, and historical context that advances personal freedom, choice, and self-determination above all else,” write authors Hazel Rose Markus (Stanford University) and Barry Schwartz (Swarthmore College).

“Contemporary psychology has proliferated this emphasis on choice and self-determination as the key to healthy psychological functioning.”

The authors point out that this emphasis on choice and freedom is not universal.

“The picture presented by a half-century of research may present an accurate picture of the psychological importance of choice, freedom, and autonomy among middle-class, college-educated Americans, but this is a picture that leaves about 95 percent of the world’s population outside its frame,” the authors write.

The authors reviewed a body of research surrounding the cultural ideas surrounding choice. They found that among non-Western cultures and among working-class Westerners, freedom and choice are less important or mean something different than they do for the university-educated people who have participated in psychological research on choice.

“And even what counts as a ‘choice’ may be different for non-Westerners than it is for Westerners,” the authors write.

“Moreover, the enormous opportunity for growth and self-advancement that flows from unlimited freedom of choice may diminish rather than enhance subjective well-being.”

People can become paralyzed by unlimited choice, and find less satisfaction with their decisions.

Choice can also foster a lack of empathy, the authors found, because it can focus people on their own preferences and on themselves at the expense of the preferences of others and of society as a whole.

“We cannot assume that choice, as understood by educated, affluent Westerners, is a universal aspiration, and that the provision of choice will necessarily foster freedom and well-being,” the authors write.

“Even in contexts where choice can foster freedom, empowerment, and independence, it is not an unalloyed good. Choice can also produce a numbing uncertainty, depression, and selfishness.”

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

Free-Choice Not Tied to Mental Well-Being

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Free-Choice Not Tied to Mental Well-Being. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/01/20/free-choice-not-tied-to-mental-well-being/10852.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.