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Does Choice Mean Freedom and Well‐Being?

Hazel Rose Markus and Barry Schwartz
Journal of Consumer Research
Vol. 37, No. 2 (August 2010), pp. 344-355
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.1086/651242
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/651242
Page Count: 12
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Does Choice Mean Freedom and Well‐Being?
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Abstract

Americans live in a political, social, and historical context that values personal freedom and choice above all else, an emphasis that has been amplified by contemporary psychology. However, this article reviews research that shows that in non‐Western cultures and among working‐class Westerners, freedom and choice do not have the meaning or importance they do for the university‐educated people who have been the subjects of almost all research on this topic. We cannot assume that choice, as understood by educated, affluent Westerners, is a universal aspiration. The meaning and significance of choice are cultural constructions. Moreover, even when choice can foster freedom, empowerment, and independence, it is not an unalloyed good. Too much choice can produce a paralyzing uncertainty, depression, and selfishness. In the United States, the path to well‐being may require that we strike a balance between the positive and negative consequences of proliferating choice in every domain of life.

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