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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2005 Apr;88(4):703-20.

You can't always get what you want: educational attainment, agency, and choice.

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Health Psychology Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0848, USA.


Using educational attainment to indicate socioeconomic status, the authors examined models of agency and effects of choice among European American adults of different educational backgrounds in 3 studies. Whereas college-educated (BA) participants and their preferred cultural products (i.e., rock music lyrics) emphasized expressing uniqueness, controlling environments, and influencing others, less educated (HS) participants and their preferred cultural products (i.e., country music lyrics) emphasized maintaining integrity, adjusting selves, and resisting influence. Reflecting these models of agency, HS and BA participants differently responded to choice in dissonance and reactance paradigms: BA participants liked chosen objects more than unchosen objects, but choice did not affect HS participants' preferences. Results suggest that HS and BA models of agency qualitatively differ, despite overlap between HS and BA worlds.

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