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When choice does not equal freedom: A sociocultural analysis of agency in working-class American contexts, Social and Personality Psychology Science

Abstract

The psychological literature indicates that people prefer to choose for themselves, but this finding largely represents a middle-class American perspective. The three studies reported here test the hypothesis that, given the material and social demands of working-class contexts, a concern for others can be normative and take precedence over individual choice. Study 1 found that, compared to middle-class participants, working-class participants, who reported fewer choices at work, more often accepted a gift from an experimenter than asked to choose for themselves. In Study 2, working-class participants' descriptions of choice included fewer associations with freedom and more associations with negative affect and difficulty than middle-class participants. Finally, Study 3 found that, reflecting greater negative affect toward choice, working-class observers preferred a shirt that a confederate accepted from someone else, rather than chose for herself. Together, these studies reveal that focusing on and attending to others is often normative in working-class contexts.

Type

Article

Author(s)

Nicole Stephens, Stephanie Fryberg, Hazel Rose Markus

Date Published

2011

Citations

Stephens, Nicole, Stephanie Fryberg, and Hazel Rose Markus. 2011. When choice does not equal freedom: A sociocultural analysis of agency in working-class American contexts. Social and Personality Psychology Science. 2(1): 33-41.

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