Friday, April 1, 2011

Unanticipated Interpersonal and Societal Consequences of Choice

Thanks to Clare for pointing me to this paper forthcoming in Psychological Science by Savani, Stevens and Markus. Abstract below.

Choice makes North Americans feel more in control, free, and independent, and thus has many positive consequences for individuals’ motivation and well-being. We report five studies that uncover novel consequences of choice for public policy and
interpersonal judgments. Studies 1-3 found that activating the concept of choice decreases support for policies promoting intergroup equality (e.g., affirmative action) and societal benefits (e.g., reducing environmental pollution), but increases support for policies promoting individual rights (e.g., legalizing drugs). Studies 4 and 5 found that activating the concept of choice increases victim-blaming and decreases empathy for disadvantaged others. Study 5 found that choice does not decrease Indians’ empathy for disadvantaged individuals, indicating that these effects of choice are culture specific. This research suggest that the well-known positive consequences of choice for individuals can be accompanied by an array of previously unexamined and potentially negative consequences for others and for society.

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