Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-564cf476b6-pxp6n Total loading time: 0.162 Render date: 2021-06-22T11:51:31.920Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true }

Choice, freedom, and well-being: considerations for public policy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 May 2017

BARRY SCHWARTZ
Affiliation:
Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley
NATHAN N. CHEEK
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Princeton University
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

It is commonly assumed in affluent, Western, democratic societies that by enhancing opportunities for choice, we enhance freedom and well-being, both by enabling people to get exactly what they want and by enabling people to express their identities. In this paper, we review evidence that the relationships between choice, freedom, and well-being are complex. The value of choice in itself may depend on culture, and even in cultural contexts that value choice, too much choice can lead to paralysis, bad decisions, and dissatisfaction with even good decisions. Policy-makers are often in a position to enhance well-being by limiting choice. We suggest five questions that policy-makers should be asking themselves when they consider promulgating policies that will limit choice in the service of enhanced well-being. The relationships between choice, freedom, and well-being are not simple, and an appreciation of their complexity may help policy-makers target their interventions more effectively.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

Ackerman, D. S., Gross, B. L. and Celly, K. S. (2014), ‘Having many choice options seems like a great idea but…: Student perceptions about the level of choice for a project topic in a marketing course’, Journal of Marketing Education, 36: 221232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ariely, D. and Levav, J. (2000), ‘Sequential choice in group settings: Taking the road less traveled and less enjoyed’, Journal of Consumer Research, 27: 279290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aristotle. (1999), Nicomachean ethics, (Ross, W. D., Trans). Kitchener, Ontario, Canada: Batoche Books.Google Scholar
Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A. and Tipton, S. M. (1985), Habits of the heart: Individualism and commitment in American life, New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
Bone, S. A., Christensen, G. L. and Williams, J. D. (2014), ‘Rejected, shackled, and alone: The impact of systematic restricted choice on minority consumers’ construction of self’, Journal of Consumer Research, 41: 451474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Botti, S. and Hsee, C. K. (2010), ‘Dazed and confused by choice: How the temporal costs of choice freedom lead to undesirable outcomes’, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 112: 161171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Botti, S. and Iyengar, S. S. (2004), ‘The psychological pleasure and pain of choosing: When people prefer choosing at the cost of subsequent outcome satisfaction’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87: 312326.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Botti, S. and Iyengar, S. S. (2006), ‘The dark side of choice: When choice impairs social welfare’, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 25: 2438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Botti, S. and McGill, A. L. (2011), ‘The locus of choice: Personality causality and satisfaction with hedonic and utilitarian decisions’, Journal of Consumer Research, 37: 10651078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Botti, S., Orfali, K. and Iyengar, S. S. (2009), ‘Tragic choices: Autonomy and emotional responses to medical decisions’, Journal of Consumer Research, 36: 337352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bruner, J. (1990), Acts of meaning, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Carroll, L. S., White, M. P. and Pahl, S. (2011), ‘The impact of excess choice on deferment of decisions to volunteer’, Judgment and Decision Making, 6: 629637.Google Scholar
Cheek, N. N. (2014). When you are what you choose: Choice, maximization, and identity in an age of unprecedented freedom, (Unpublished undergraduate thesis). Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.Google Scholar
Chen, B., Vansteenkiste, M., Beyers, W., Soenens, B. and Van Petegem, S. (2013), ‘Autonomy and family decision making for Chinese adolescents: Disentangling the dual meaning of autonomy’, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44: 11841209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chernev, A., Böckenholt, U. and Goodman, J. (2015), ‘Choice overload: A conceptual review and meta-analysis’, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 25: 333358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Choi, J. and Fishbach, A. (2011), ‘Choice as an end versus a means’, Journal of Marketing Research, 48: 544554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deci, E. L. and Ryan, R. M. (2000), ‘The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior’, Psychological Inquiry, 11: 227268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deci, E. L. and Ryan, R. M. (eds.) (2002), Handbook of self-determination research, Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.Google Scholar
Fischer, R. and Boer, D. (2011), ‘What is more important for national well-being: Money or autonomy? A meta-analysis of well-being, burnout, and anxiety across 63 societies’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101: 164184.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fiske, A. P., Kitayama, S., Markus, H. R. and Nisbett, R. E. (1998), ‘The cultural matrix of social psychology’, in Gilbert, D. T., Fiske, S. T. and Lindzey, G. (eds.), The handbook of social psychology, 4th edn, New York: McGraw Hill, 915981.Google Scholar
Goodman, J. K. and Malkoc, S. A. (2012), ‘Choosing here and now versus there and later: The moderating role of psychological distance on assortment size preferences’, Journal of Consumer Research, 39: 751768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grant, A. and Schwartz, B. (2011), ‘Too much of a good thing: The challenge and opportunity of the inverted-U’, Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6: 6176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hanoch, Y., Rice, T., Cummings, J. and Wood, S. (2009), ‘How much choice is too much?: The case of the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit’, Health Service Research, 44: 11571168.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Haynes, G. A. (2009), ‘Testing the boundaries of the choice overload phenomenon: The effect of number of options and time pressure on decision difficulty and satisfaction’, Psychology & Marketing, 26: 204212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Henrich, J., Heine, S. and Norenzayan, A. (2010), ‘The weirdest people in the world’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33: 61135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hollis, M. (1979), ‘Rational man and social science’, in Harrison, R. (ed.). Rational Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 115.Google Scholar
Iyengar, S. S., Jiang, W. and Huberman, G. (2004). ‘How much choice is too much: Determinants of individual contributions in 401 K retirement plans’, in Mitchell, O.S. and Utkus, S. (eds), Pension Design and Structure: New Lessons from Behavioral Finance, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 8395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Iyengar, S. S. and Lepper, M. R. (2000), ‘When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing?’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79: 9951006.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kahn, U., Dhar, R. and Wertenbroch, K. (2005), ‘A behavioral decision theoretic perspective on hedonic and utilitarian consumer choice’, in Ratneshwar, S. and Mick, D. G. (eds), Inside consumption: Frontiers of research on consumer motives, goals, and desires, New York: Routledge, 144165.Google Scholar
Kelley, H. H. (1967), ‘Attribution theory in social psychology’, in Levine, D. (ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, Vol. 15, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 192238.Google Scholar
Kim, H. and Markus, H. R. (1999), ‘Deviance or uniqueness, harmony or conformity? A cultural analysis’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77: 785800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kim, H. S. and Drolet, A. (2003), ‘Choice and self-expression: A cultural analysis of variety-seeking’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85: 373382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kim, H. S. and Sherman, D. K. (2008), ‘What do we see in a tilted square? A validation of the figure independence scale’, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34: 4760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitayama, S. and Uchida, Y. (2005), ‘Interdependent agency: An alternative system for action’, in Sorrentino, R. M., Cohen, D., Olson, J. M. and Zanna, M. P. (eds), Culture and Social Behavior: The Ontario Symposium, Vol. 10, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 137164.Google Scholar
Lorenzi-Cioldi, F. (1998), ‘Group status and perceptions of homogeneity’, in Stroebe, W. and Hewstone, M. (eds), European Review of Social Psychology, Vol. 9, Chichester, UK: Wiley, 3175.Google Scholar
Mani, A., Mullainathan, S., Shafir, E. and Zhao, J. (2013), ‘Poverty impedes cognitive function’, Science, 341: 976980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Markus, H. R. and Kitayama, S. (1991), ‘Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation’, Psychological Review, 98: 224253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Markus, H. R., Mullally, P. R. and Kitayama, S. (1997), ‘Selfways: Diversity in modes of cultural participation’, in Neisser, U. and Jopling, D. A. (eds.), The conceptual self in context: Culture, experience, self-understanding, New York, NY, US: Cambridge University Press, 1361.Google Scholar
Markus, H.R. and Schwartz, B. (2010), ‘Does choice mean freedom and well being?’, Journal of Consumer Research, 37: 344355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, J. G. (2003), ‘Culture and agency: Implications for psychological theories of motivation and social development’, In Murphy-Burman, V. and Berman, J. J. (eds.), Cross-cultural differences in perspectives on the self, Vol. 49, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 5999.Google Scholar
Mullainathan, S. and Shafir, E. (2013), Scarcity: Why having too little means so much, New York: Times Books.Google Scholar
Ratner, R. K. and Kahn, B. E. (2002), ‘The impact of private versus public consumption on variety-seeking behavior’, Journal of Consumer Behavior, 29: 246257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reed, A. E., Mikels, J. A. and Löckenhoff, C. E. (2012), ‘Choosing with confidence: Self-efficacy and preferences for choice’, Judgment and Decision Making, 7: 173180.Google Scholar
Reed, A. E., Mikels, J. A. and Löckenhoff, C. E. (2013), ‘Preferences for choice across adulthood: Age trajectories and potential mechanisms’, Psychology and Aging, 28: 625632.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Reed, A. E., Mikels, J. A. and Simon, K. I. (2008), ‘Older adults prefer less choice than younger adults’, Psychology and Aging, 23: 671675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rozin, P., Fischler, C., Shields, C. and Masson, E. (2006), ‘Attitudes towards large numbers of choices in the food domain: A cross-cultural study of five countries in Europe and the USA’, Appetite, 46: 304308.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Patall, E. A., Sylvester, B. J. and Han, C. (2014), ‘The role of competence in the effects of choice on motivation’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 50: 2744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Savani, K., Markus, H. R. and Conner, A. L. (2008), ‘Let your preference be your guide? Preferences and choices are more tightly linked for north Americans than for Indians’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95: 861876.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Scheibehenne, B., Greifeneder, R. and Todd, P. M. (2010), ‘Can there ever be too many options? A meta-analysis of choice overload’, Journal of Consumer Research, 37: 409425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schwartz, B. (2000), ‘Self-determination: The tyranny of freedom’, American Psychologist, 55: 7988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schwartz, B. (2010), ‘Be careful what you wish for: The dark side of freedom’. in Arkin, R. M., Oleson, K. C. and Carroll, P. J. (eds), Handbook of the uncertain self: Perspectives from social and personality psychology, New York: Psychology Press, 6277.Google Scholar
Schwartz, B. (2016), The paradox of choice: Why more is less, (rev. ed.). New York: Ecco.Google Scholar
Schwartz, B., Ward, A., Monterosso, J., Lyubomirsky, S., White, K. and Lehman, D. R. (2002), ‘Maximizing versus satisficing: Happiness is a matter of choice’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83: 11781197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Seligman, M. E. P. (1975), Helplessness, San Francisco: Freeman.Google ScholarPubMed
Shavitt, S. (1990), ‘The role of attitude objects in attitude functions’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 26: 124148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stephens, N. M., Fryberg, S. A. and Markus, H. R. (2011), ‘When choice does not equal freedom: A sociocultural analysis of agency in working-class American contexts’, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2: 3341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stephens, N. M., Hamedani, M. G., Markus, H. R., Bergsieker, H. B. and Eloul, L. (2009), ‘Why did they “choose” to stay? Perspectives of Hurricane Katrina observers and survivors’, Psychological Science, 20: 878886.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Stephens, N. M., Markus, H. R. and Townsend, S. S. M. (2007), ‘Choice as an act of meaning: The case of social class’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93: 814830.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sunstein, C. R. (2015), Choosing not to choose: Understanding the value of choice, New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Taylor, C. (1989), Sources of the self, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Taylor, C. (1992a), The ethics of authenticity, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Taylor, C. (1992b), Multiculturalism and the “politics of recognition”, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Tanius, B. E., Wood, S., Hanoch, Y. and Rice, T. (2009), ‘Aging and choice: Applications to Medicare Part D’, Judgment and Decision Making, 4: 92101.Google Scholar
Thaler, R. and Sunstein, C. R. (2008), Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Triandis, H. C. (1989), ‘The self and social behavior in differing cultural contexts’, Psychological Review, 96: 506520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vandello, J. and Cohen, D. (1999), ‘Patterns of individualism and collectivism in the United States’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77: 279292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
10
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Choice, freedom, and well-being: considerations for public policy
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Choice, freedom, and well-being: considerations for public policy
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Choice, freedom, and well-being: considerations for public policy
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *