The Situationist

Nicole Stephens on “Choice, Social Class, and Agency”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 31, 2009

Nicole Stephens is a Ph.D. student in Social Psychology at Stanford University. Her research focuses on the ways in which sociocultural contexts – such as those delineated by social class, race, and gender – shape the experience and the consequences of choice. In one line of research, she examines how people of different social classes define and respond to choice. In a second line of research, she examines how the common American belief that individual choice drives all actions blinds people to the sociocultural sources of inequality.

At the third annual conference on Law and Mind Sciences, which took place im March of 2009, Stephens’s fascinating presentation was titled “Choice, Social Class, and Agency.” Here’s the abstract:

Across disciplines we tend to assume that choice is a fundamental or “basic” unit of human behavior, and that behavior is a product of individual choice. In my talk, I will present a series of lab and field studies that question these assumptions about behavior, and suggest that these assumptions reflect primarily the experiences of college-educated, or middle-class, Americans, who tend to have access to a wealth of choices and an array of quality options among which to choose. I will discuss the implications of these assumptions for the (mis)understanding of behavior across diverse contexts.

You can watch her presentation on the three (roughly 9-minute) videos below.

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For more information about the Project on Law and Mind Sciences, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Blame Frame – Abstract,” “The Situation in New Orleans,”Examining Why Estimated “Costs” of Racial Inequality Vary by Race,” and “Naïve Cynicism in Election 2008: Dispositionism v. Situationism?.”  To review all of the Situationist posts that discuss the problem with the illusion of choices, click here.

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3 Responses to “Nicole Stephens on “Choice, Social Class, and Agency””

  1. [...] Hanna shared Nicole Stephens on “Choice, Social Class, and Agency”. [...]

  2. [...] Choice, Social Class, & Agency – Via Situationist – Across disciplines we tend to assume that choice is a fundamental or “basic” unit of human behavior, and that behavior is a product of individual choice. In my talk, I will present a series of lab and field studies that question these assumptions about behavior, and suggest that these assumptions reflect primarily the experiences of college-educated, or middle-class, Americans, who tend to have access to a wealth of choices and an array of quality options among which to choose. I will discuss the implications of these assumptions for the (mis)understanding of behavior across diverse contexts. [...]

  3. [...] Choice, Social Class, & Agency – Via Situationist – Across disciplines we tend to assume that choice is a fundamental or “basic” unit of human behavior, and that behavior is a product of individual choice. In my talk, I will present a series of lab and field studies that question these assumptions about behavior, and suggest that these assumptions reflect primarily the experiences of college-educated, or middle-class, Americans, who tend to have access to a wealth of choices and an array of quality options among which to choose. I will discuss the implications of these assumptions for the (mis)understanding of behavior across diverse contexts. [...]

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