For Americans, the act of making a simple choice caused them to feel less upset about the starving child’s plight. For Indians, making this choice had no effect on how they felt towards the child. Their level of distress about the child was the same, regardless of whether they had been asked to make a choice. Making choices, even trivial ones, may symbolize something important to Americans but not to Indians. For Americans, the idea of choice may be more strongly linked to ideals such as independence from societal constraints. Even a minor focus on small choices can activate these ideals, leading Americans to overemphasize the role that choice has in shaping our life outcomes. The potential downside is that for Americans, thinking about life in terms of choices may decrease our interest in helping others. When viewed through the lens of choice, people’s misfortunes are seen as caused by the actions they’ve taken rather than situations they have encountered. This may seem to bode poorly for solving social problems that require cooperation. However, Savani and his colleagues point out that it may be possible to use the effects of choice to our own advantage. If cooperation and helpfulness are framed as expressions of choice and free will, Americans may become even more charitable than others.
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