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Problem and background

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  1. Second World Congress on Positive Psychology (July 23-26, 2011; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)Choice as self-orientation activity in real life situations of different scale Anna FamDmitry LeontievHigher School of Economics Moscow State UniversityRussia Russiaanna.fam@gmail.comdleon@smysl.ru Problem and background Choice is a process of reducing uncertainty at different levels of human activity in situations with two or more alternative behavioral options. In psychological research, choice is typically considered from the viewpoint of its result, the decision actually made. However, in overwhelming majority of cases the problem of choice cannot be reduced to simple arithmetic, a procedure of rational calculation. In most everyday choice situations we cannot predict how bad or good the outcomes of our choice will be; so, the most essential component of choice process is its subjective quality and the existential act of taking responsibility for the choice itself and its consequences. Thus in our research the main attention was paid to the self-orientation processes in the situation of choice. We define choice as an internal self-orientation activity (Leontiev, Pilipko, 1995; Leontiev, Fam, 2011) which can proceed at different levels of complexity. Being motivated and expedient, choice builds a connection between the subject and the world and possesses more or less difficult operational structure which consists of external (for example, a lot) and internal (for example, a comparison of values) means. In some cases it has the developed, branched and deliberate character and is integrated with other sides of life; and in other cases it is reduced to the automatic and unperceived operations proceeding without other aspects of life. The characteristics of the self-orientation activity, in turn, are supposed to be connected with the key personality variables that reflect the level of maturity and autonomy of the subject. Study Design The aim of the current study was revealing phenomenological descriptions of various situations of choice and finding both stable and varying parameters of these situations. We proposed the participants (undergraduate psychology students, N=74) to recollect two different choice situations of different scale (‘fateful’ (important)and ‘everyday’ (unimportant) choicesin randomized order) from their experience, to evaluate these situations by a number of scales, and to fill a number of well-being scales and personality inventories, measuring attitudes toward risk, motivational orientations, satisfaction with life, purpose in life and others. Results We compared the descriptions of choice situations of different scale using quantitative and qualitative data analysis. Quantitative analysis For comparing both situations by following parameters we used Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test: Qualitative analysis ● First, the types of described situations in these two cases were totally different: Forfateful choicesunique situations (turning points) and foreveryday choicesrepetitive events are recollected. ● Second, the retrospective evaluation of choice outcomes was different: Fateful choices are thus very often evaluated in highly expressive terms, and everyday choices usually in mild terms. ● Third, we found the differences in level of specificity of free descriptions of choice situation: Fateful choices: rather detailed descriptions; different parameters of description were allocated, namely: 1. Context(the circumstances in which the situation emerged, the description of alternatives) 2. Difficulty of choice (and factors that influenced it) 3. Choice strategies (different internal or external means for resolving uncertainty) 4. Emotions 5. Consequences of choice Everyday choices:less detailed descriptions; it was difficult to allocate concrete parameters. We see that the psychological characteristics of these two kinds of choice are evidently different. It follows that speaking of choice is hardly meaningful without specifying the scale of choice situation, and that the regularities found on the situation of everyday choices cannot be generalized for the choices of larger scale, and vice versa. A simple choicetask to be solved through cognitive rational or quasirational calculations presents different psychological reality than existential choice situation lacking clear alternatives and criteria of defining whether the actual choice is “right” or “wrong”. The next step is to check whether there are personality predictors defining the subjective quality and inner structure of choice process, revealed in previous studies (Leontiev, Mandrikova, Fam, 2007; 2009) and whether the structure of choice is intraindividually consistent across choice situations of different scale.