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The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  255 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Americans are fixated on the idea of choice. Our political theory is based on the consent of the governed. Our legal system is built upon the argument that people freely make choices and bear responsibility for them. And what slogan could better express the heart of our consumer culture than "Have it your way"?

In this provocative book, Kent Greenfield poses unsettling ques
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Yale University Press (first published October 1st 2011)
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The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits> is a marvelous book. It often confirmed what I'd already thought and sometimes gave me ah-hah! moments, revealing what I hadn't guessed.

Greenfield offers up studies and anecdotes to give shape to what we already know or suspect - for instance, that if you're trying to move $279 food processors off the shelf but people keep buy the cheaper ones, start stocking a $479 food processor. Now the $279 one doesn't look as expensive, a
Oct 09, 2011 Virginia rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads program. (Awesome!)

I get the feeling that this book was born out of the author's frustration with the current state of affairs in politics. A lot of examples that are chosen (ha!) involve the Tea Party, and illustrate how, exactly their rhetoric is wrong. (Not that this is difficult.) This is VERY much a book written by and for Americans. The writing style is easy and conversational, and reminded me
Sep 08, 2015 Camille rated it liked it
(Sept. book club selection) This book is somewhat Malcolm Gladwell-ish, although I didn't find it quite as enjoyable to read. Greenfield brings up several thought-provoking issues in relation to how we make choices and what factors influence those choices, and he argues that many times our decisions are affected by outside factors that we may or may not be aware of. He does a good job of summing up his findings and suggesting ways we can be more effective decision-makers. He says, "One thing I ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Kerry rated it liked it
I'm afraid that this book did not impress me. The author presents some interesting ideas about consumer culture and how we're constantly influenced towards making our own "decisions," but the book itself is not terribly well written. Greenfield injects far too much of himself into the arguments. I would have much preferred to watch him prove his points logically through the use of scientific/academic sources, as opposed to relying upon anecdotes and personal experiences. At times, Greenfield ...more
Jenny Stringham
Sep 16, 2015 Jenny Stringham rated it liked it
Shelves: book-group
Even though I may not have enjoyed the writing style as much in this book, there are some thoughts I will take with me and love remembering.
1.) Errors are the portals to discovery
2.) Culture creates norms, Culture enforces norms. and for many of us, much of the time, culture influences decisions so much that the scope of genuine choice is exceedingly small.
3.) We tend to live better if we choose our lives than if they are given to or imposed on us.
Also, I really liked this idea....
4.) Control
May 12, 2012 Kaitlin rated it really liked it
This is a great read for someone who wants to reflect a bit on the human psyche while still reading something easy to digest. The title of this book makes it sound more severe than it is because the author clearly believes that people have choices - there are just very powerful factors that influence choice, and some situations that are framed as choices really aren't choices at all.

I liked the author's use of sociological studies and historical events to illustrate his points. For me, at least,
Oct 09, 2011 Vera rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Many thanks to the Goodreads First Reads for sending me this book! It's definitely one of the favorite books that I've won.

The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits is much more exciting than the title might suggest. I learned a lot about why we make certain choices, what influences us (brain chemistry for example - something I didn't suspect had anything to do with my choices), and how in certain instances we don't have as much choice as we believed.

What makes this book s
Sep 29, 2011 Deborah rated it it was amazing
This book is well-researched, easily understandable and very readable.

The subject was primarily about understanding and being aware of what influences and limits our choices. The author is a law professor and he uses laws and cases to explain many of his points. He uses anecdotes, books and movies to illustrate his points. I particularly liked the explanations of the ways our brains and memories trick us into making certain choices.

I'm very happy that I read this book.

I won this on 8/26/11 th
Oct 01, 2011 Dan rated it it was amazing
As expected this is an erudite and well thought out examination of how we make decisions and the external and internal influences on those decisions. What was not expected but very much welcomed is that this is an accessible and highly engaging read. Kent intersperses his arguments with many anecdotal stories that help bring clarity to the concepts. This book will appeal to a general audience as well as to those with more academic leanings. There are plenty of notes which can lead to a more ...more
Lori Tatar
Oct 07, 2011 Lori Tatar rated it really liked it
"The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits" by Kent Greenfield is a very insightful examination of "choice" and our belief system as it revolves around the choices we make, the consequences for our choices, and the sometimes misguided perception that we have a choice at all. Greenfield presents his views very sensibly and supports them with, in most instances, anecdotal evidence, which can be very convincing. This book is definitely worth reading, especially for those who ...more
Oct 07, 2011 Elizabeth added it
Shelves: litarature
I won this book on goodreads and was excited to get started on it. I really like how he explains things and uses his own personal experiances to help you understand the concepts. Everyone should read because it will open your eyes not just about the choices you make but help you understand why other people make the choices they do.
Aug 06, 2014 Sara rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, sociology
This is probably my fault for attempting to read this during a busy family weekend, but I found much of the discussion and topics raised to be better addressed in other books I have read. The odd use of photographs as well as the cursory attention paid to some of the issues made this a rather non-compelling read.
Jul 24, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
Interesting book that discusses the amount of choice that we really have in day to day life. Many fail to realize how much of their choice is really guided through outside influences and regulations.
Diana Debartlo
Sep 19, 2011 Diana Debartlo rated it it was amazing
An eye-opening, fun, and smart look at the many things that effect and influence the choices we make. Very anecdotal and accessible. This book is a life changer.
Nov 28, 2015 Heather rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
There was nothing particularly new or compelling in this book. Only four years after its publication, it already felt dated to me in some aspects. I had hoped it would unveil areas of our lives over which we truly have no choice (e.g. birth, parentage), but it instead hashed through the same ideas of environmental manipulation constraining people from having reasonable choices (think "white privilege" arguments).

In my own reading, The Myth of Choice followed close on the heels of Malcolm Gladwe
Jan 11, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it
There is a cartoon in the middle of the book that shows two fish in a bowl, presumably a father and son. The line underneath states: "You can be anything you want to be--no limits." The main point of the book is that we are free to choose, but only within our own fishbowls, constraints which are made up of context: biology, culture, etc. Power, economics and the free market, and even brain chemistry put strong contraints on our options. A fascinating read.

Some things that stood out for me:

The re
Nov 27, 2011 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I've been interested in the ideas of choice and free will for as long as I can remember, coming from both a religious angle (the Presbyterian Church has a predestination doctrine) and a biological (The realization that all we do and are is composed of chemical reactions, which was quickly followed by the thought that, if we're just chemicals, how can we really control which way our chemicals act?).

Clearly, I was a bit of a weird kid.

Prof. Greenfield's book isn't as in depth and, well, long, as I
Liz V.
Apr 12, 2012 Liz V. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
ARC from Goodreads. Therefore, owe apology for not reading promptly after receipt.

Greenfield argues that the supposed free choice in our lives is much more limited than we would like to believe--a premise to which any frustrated educator of the physically or mentally challenged or the poor or rich might agree.

I am disadvantaged as my comments relate to the ARC version, so that what I perceive as an error may have been corrected. Nonetheless, on pp. 56-58, Greenfield talks about Charles Whitman's
Dec 31, 2011 Judith rated it liked it
"We have to believe in free will; we have no choice."-----Isaac Bashevis Singer (as quoted in the front of this book) This book was a recommendation of "The Goodreads Team" and I have to say, it was a good selection. It is an interesting and concise look at the myriad of influences on our decision making process. So first you have to decide if we have free will at all; and if we have free will, do we really make independent choices or are we just kidding ourselves.
As the author points out, "on
Sep 13, 2014 Victoria rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I won this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

How much choice do we really have when we decide what to buy at our local supermarket? When we are offered a salary? Who bears the responsibility of our foolish decision when we decide not to wear helmets while driving motorcycles? According to Greenfield, we have a lot less influence over the choices we make then we believe. Some factors discussed in the book are obvious, such as marketing strategies appealing to our visua
Christina Hall
Nov 08, 2011 Christina Hall rated it really liked it
Kent Greenfield's "The Myth of Choice" is less an indictment of the belief in the freedom of choice than a plea for empathy and compassion. Greenfield's argument has a clearly liberal slant and seems to be geared toward shushing the Herman Cains of the world. You know, that guy that's pretending to run for president that said that if you aren't rich you should blame yourself as a response to the Occupy Wallstreet protest.
Anyway, he does raise some interesting points. For example, to what extent
Candace Sharp
Dec 09, 2012 Candace Sharp rated it it was amazing
I'd like to start off by saying I'm a business major in college. So as I was reading this I was in classes like Business Law. Now the book; I LOVED this book it was very eye opening to how choice is viewed and how it has been tested. The book to a look at choice through the emotional side, the law said, and the psychological side. Some of the things that are mentioned in this book I already knew about. It uses real scenarios that have happen and explains the outcome. For me it was a very fun ...more
Mar 31, 2013 Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, 2013-tower-team
I picked up this book because I am interested in issues of government and institutional paternalism, and the dichotomy of personal responsibility. It is well structured and goes into the assumptions we make and their internal inconsistencies when judging people and their behavior. He discusses not just the continuum that exists of choice, and when a choice is no real choice at all, as well as the influence of various external factors on our ability to make good choices. These include the role of ...more
May 10, 2012 Camille rated it really liked it
Great book, very much in that Malcolm Gladwell pop social studies vein. Weighty enough to make you feel smart reading it, but well-written enough to be a thought-provoking but easy and enjoyable read. I really like Greenfield's style and look forward to reading more from him. I could see how this is sort of a preaching to the choir liberal tome and wouldn't change anyone's mind but even in its liberalness it gave me a lot to ponder and was more open-ended than one would expect. Finally, I ...more
Jan 04, 2012 Mike rated it liked it
To say that we are conscious individuals, says the neuroscience professor in Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, is to say that we are little rocks flying though the air, little rocks which achieve consciousness in midflight. But, considering our trajectory and velocity have already been set by forces beyond our control, a lot of good consciousness does us. The Myth of Choice explores those forces —biological, psychological, cultural, legal, et al—that take the freedom out of free choice. Had I ...more
Dec 31, 2011 Eva rated it it was ok
I won this book as a first read through goodreads giveaways. I am not quite through it all but haveread enough to rewiew it. I was interested in this book because I thought it might help me understand the employees I have under me a little better. This is a book that does make you a second look at why people make the choices that do. From readind this book I do try to think of the reasoning behind the choices. I do not agree with everything that I have read, however it is a book about choices ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Tom rated it liked it
Although this book is well-argued, and I agree with most of it, it lacks any particularly original insights. Our real capacity for choice is limited by a variety of factors, including the free-market, culture, biology, etc. Personal responsibility is a confused concept. Society needs to make certain changes in order to allow individuals to make better and freer choices. None of this is anything new. Most of it, in fact, I have found to be obvious for awhile now. This isn't a bad book by any ...more
Alla  Watson
Aug 24, 2011 Alla Watson rated it really liked it
Many thanks for Goodreads First Reads for sending me this book!

I was really backed up on my reading, but finally got a chance to read/review and I wasn't disappointed!

Not an easy topic to present in an engaging, witty, smart way. Yet this book delivered just that, giving plenty of examples, anecdotes, comparisons for the readers to ponder. Do we really have as much choice as we believe? Read it - and learn that even those of us who wear Freedom proudly on our sleeves are sometimes wearing nothin
Dec 01, 2013 Cyndie rated it really liked it
This book has something unique to offer amidst the plethora of other books of choice out there.

Not only does it provide a comprehensive review of the relevant research on how we choose and what influences those choices, but he takes it a step further to help us think about how this should change how we think and treat those around us.

Talks about what we can do to make it easier for ourselves to make responsible choices and be more understanding of why others make the choices they do.
Mar 22, 2016 Rachel rated it it was ok
Disappointingly shallow. The examples, though accessible, were tired and so familiar that they came across more patronizing than inspiring. Author struggles to keep personal opinions to himself, and while that is his right (his book, his opinions), made it less engaging overall. If you expect it to push boundaries, not the book for you. If this is the first book you've read on the subject, you might find this a good surface-level introduction.
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What's new? 2 7 Sep 10, 2014 09:46PM  
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Kent Greenfield is Professor of Law and Law Fund Research Scholar at Boston College Law School, where he teaches and writes in the areas of business law, constitutional law, decision making theory, legal theory, and economic analysis of law. He is the former Chair of the Section on Business Associations of the American Association of Law Schools, and a former clerk to Justice David Souter on the ...more
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