Psychological Issues: Freedom of Choice

As modernization continues, people become more obsessed with the desire to enjoy certain rights. Most of the freedoms that people have increasingly gained access to can be summarised into one – the freedom of choice (Hazel & Barry, 2010). People enjoy the freedom of choice when they are allowed to take charge of their lives and decide their destinies. According to Hazel and Barry (2010), freedom of choice improves happiness and life satisfaction among the people who enjoy it.

However, there have been many questions concerning the effects of freedom of choice on people’s wellbeing (Hazel & Barry, 2010). While some scholars have suggested that this freedom improves people’s wellbeing, some maintain that it is a recipe for self-destruction (Snibbe & Hazel, 2005).

Despite this purported standoff, a closer look at the events that precede and follow choices reveals that apart from bringing happiness and life satisfaction, freedom of choice also improves wellbeing. This paper discusses the effects of freedom of choice, beliefs and positive illusion on wellbeing.

The assertion that freedom of choice may not improve life is based on the fact that some choices are unguided and misplaced (Wenger & Fowers, 2008). Although this assertion may be true, it does not make the option of imposing choices on people a better one. According to Wenger & Fowers, (2008), there are high chances that choices and interests are mismatched if people are not allowed to make their own decisions.

This observation is common in making career choices for young people. Children often find themselves under pressure to pursue certain careers which may not necessarily be in line with their interests and talents (Wenger & Fowers, 2008). Wenger and Fowers (2008) claim that parents tend to use their children to pursue dreams which they failed to achieve during their early days.

These children cannot have the commitment and energy necessary to succeed in such fields. As a result, their wellbeing is severely compromised. In addition, it has also been found that the chances of a parent choosing a wrong career for a child are higher than the chances of a child choosing a wrong career for him or herself (Wenger and Fowers, 2008).

When people are given opportunities to make their own choices, they become more willing to take responsibility for the outcomes of such choices (Wenger and Fowers, 2008). Wenger and Fowers (2008) also assert that people who are willing to take responsibility for their actions tend to be more careful in their activities than people who are not willing to be held accountable.

Therefore, people who take charge of their choices are more likely to succeed than people who leave their fate in the hands of other people. In addition, people who choose their own careers do so in respect of their talents and interests (Wenger and Fowers, 2008). Career choices guided by talents and interests are more likely to lead to success than the imposed ones. In this regard, freedom of choice improves the chances of success and, consequently, wellbeing.

People’s choices are influenced by their beliefs. Psychologists have revealed that people from different cultural backgrounds would make very different choices under similar circumstances (Snibbe and Hazel, 2005). Snibbe and Hazel (2005) established that in the United States of America where individualism is high, people make choices to fulfill their personal expectations.

On the other hand, in eastern countries such as China, people make decisions to meet societal expectations (Snibbe and Hazel, 2005). According to Snibbe and Hazel (2005), whatever beliefs they may have, human beings are always committed and energetic when pursuing something they believe in. As a result, those who do what they believe in are more likely to succeed than those who are doing what they have been asked to do. Therefore, it is right to conclude that people who make their own choices are more likely to succeed.

It is not always true that people who enjoy the freedom of choice make the right choices. Sometimes wrong choices are made because people are under the illusion that those are the right choices (Taylor, Kemeny, Reed, Bower & Tara, 2000)). Under such circumstances, Taylor et al. (2000) observed that there are times when illusions positively impact on the well-being of a person.

Taylor et al. (2000) studied the relationship between positive illusion and well-being in patients with a terminal illness. In this study, some women who had undergone breast cancer treatment were under the illusion that they will heal and become stronger than they were before the illness. However, medical reports indicated that their cancer was progressing towards final stages and they could not survive for long.

It emerged that these patients performed better during disease management than those who had accepted their fate. The same study analyzed HIV patients and the results remained consistent. This led to a conclusion that positive mental state leads to positive physiological changes in the body. Taylor et al. (2000) also claimed that positive emotional state had a positive impact on CD4 T-cells. This shows that people who are under the illusion that they are good at something to become good at that thing.

In conclusion, freedom of choice improves wellbeing. People who make their own choices are more likely to make choices that agree with their interests than people who rely on others for decisions. Such people tend to be committed and careful in following up on their choices.

People who make the wrong choices for themselves manage damages better than people whose wrong choices were made for them. On the other hand, positive illusion improves the physical well-being of patients. This means that a strong belief brings resilience to fight and succeed.

References

Hazel, R. M. & Barry S. (2010). Does choice mean freedom and well-being? Journal of Consumer Research. 37(2): 344-355

Snibbe, A. C. & Hazel R. M. (2005), You can’t always get what you want: social class, agency, and choice, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88: 703–20.

Taylor, E. S., Kemeny M. E, Reed M. G., Bower J. E. & Tara L. G. (2000). Psychological Resources, Positive Illusions, and Health. Berkeley, Cal: University of California

Wenger, A. & Fowers, B. J. (2008). “Positive Illusions in Parenting: Every Child Is Above Average”. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 38 (3): 611–634.