Does local context (e.g., city of residence) matter for self and well-being? We theorized that it does because local contexts diverge in prevalent historically-derived ideas, norms, and products. Through historical analysis, studies of norms (tightness-looseness; Study 1) and cultural products (content analyses of newspaper headlines, venture capital firm websites, hospital websites; Studies 2-4), and studies assessing individuals’ self and well-being (Studies 5-7), we compared Boston and San Francisco—similar cities on many metrics. We find that self and well-being are, in some important part, local. Reflecting themes of “old and established,” Boston’s history and cultural products emphasize tradition, status, and community, and social norms are relatively tight; accordingly feelings and selves are socially contingent. In contrast, reflecting themes of “new and free,” San Francisco’s history and cultural products emphasize unlimited possibility, egalitarianism, and innovation, and social norms are relatively loose; accordingly feelings and selves are relatively less contingent on others.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/victoria_plaut/7/