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Choice consists of that mental process of thinking involved with the process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one for action. Simple examples can involve deciding whether to get up in the morning or go back to sleep, or selecting a given route to make a journey across a country.

Most people generally regard having choices as a good thing. But a severely limited or artificially restricted choice can lead to discomfort with choosing or even to unsatisfactory outcomes. On the contrary, unlimited choice may lead to confusion, regret of the alternatives not taken, and indifference in an unstructured existence; and the illusion that choosing an object or a course leads necessarily to control of that object or course can cause psychological problems.

In economics and politics

See also: rational choice theory, public choice theory, social choice theory

Consumerist advocates of consumption in general and advertising in particular join supporters of representative democracy in singing the praises and assuming the virtues of choice.

In the political sphere, the constraints of a two-party system often frustrate both voters and politicians.

Choice-advocates often pair the virtues of choice with the responsibilities of responsibility. Note that the consequences of a personal choice may impact on other people, and any associated responsibilities may extend into a wider society.

In philosophy

Philosophically, having choice implies the existence of free will and the antithesis of fate, chance and predestination. For a dramatic highlighting of the arbitrariness and cruelty of severely imposed and prescribed choice, see the central image of Sophie's Choice.

Some people draw a distinction between choice (implying almost-random selection) and a decision - a selection which purportedly precludes going back or altering the selection.

Jean-Paul Sartre's philosophy states that a man is "condemned to be free" because he is "abandoned" in the world and given the right to choice. If his choice is wrong, or immoral, he will feel guilt and sadness.

In law

The age at which children or young adults can make meaningful and considered choices poses issues for ethics and for jurisprudence.

In psychology

Main article: choice theory

See also


  • Barry Schwartz (2004), The Paradox of Choice: why more is less, HarperCollins

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