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Description: How much choice do we have in our day-to-day lives? What turns out the answer that question may vary dramatically by culture. Think about what you would expect in the way results in the following experiment. 100 North American in 100 Japanese high school students are asked to take a piece of paper and on one side to write down all the things in their life that they would like to make their own choices about and on the other side of the paper write down all the things that they would rather have other people decide for them. What do you think the results of this study showed? And what sorts of different demands might different results place on individual growth and development (and perhaps on stress management) in each of these cultures? Read the article linked below for some additional information

Source: The Choice Explosion, David Brooks, Opinionator, New York Times.

Date: May 3, 2016


Links: Article Link –

So how well did you do with your predictions about cultural differences in the area of life choices? As the rest of the linked article goes on to suggest we may need to think rather hard whether all of this choice is good for us and to work hard to make sure that when we are making choices were doing so in ways that add to rather than take away from our personal advantages. Sheena Iyengar has done a fair bit of work in this area and talks about it in a Ted talk linked below under references for reading further. It’s a good place to start if you’d like to look into this matter or deeply.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the consequences of these cultural differences in beliefs about the extent of personal choices that are necessary if our lives are to be viewed as optimally livable?
  2. What are some of the implications of these differences for situations where we are trying to communicate across cultural boundaries?
  3. Given the degree of variability between these two cultures whether any implications for how we approach our work within psychology that focuses upon such things as personal choice or even on matters of the development of personal identity?

References (Read Further):

Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. R. (1999). Rethinking the value of choice: a cultural perspective on intrinsic motivation. Journal of personality and social psychology, 76(3), 349.


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