The Chains on All My People Are the Chains on Me: Restrictions to Collective Autonomy Undermine the Personal Autonomy and Psychological Well-Being of Group Members

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Abstract

Four studies assessed the potentially detrimental effects that restrictions to collective autonomy (i.e., a group’s freedom to determine and practice its own identity) may have for the personal autonomy and psychological well-being of group members. In Study 1, using 3 distinct samples (NSample1a = 123, NSample1b = 129, NSample1c = 370), correlational and cross-cultural evidence indicates that perceived restrictions to the collective autonomy of one’s group is directly associated with reduced personal autonomy, and indirectly associated with diminished well-being through personal autonomy. In Study 2 (N = 411), a longitudinal assessment of group members over 3 time-points during a 4-month period found that group members who perceived greater collective autonomy restriction also experienced reduced personal autonomy, and in turn, reduced psychological well-being over time. In Study 3 (N = 255), group members described a time during which their ingroup had (or did not have) its collective autonomy unduly restricted by other groups. Participants who were primed to think that their group lacked collective autonomy reported reduced feelings of personal autonomy, and reduced psychological well-being (compared with those primed to think their group had collective autonomy). In Study 4 (N = 389), collective autonomy was manipulated within the context of an intensive laboratory simulation. Collective autonomy-restricted group members experienced less personal autonomy than those who did not have their collective autonomy restricted. Together these findings suggest that restrictions to a group’s collective autonomy may have detrimental consequences for the personal autonomy and psychological well-being of group members.

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