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The Art of Choosing

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Every day we make choices. Coke or Pepsi? Save or spend? Stay or go?

Whether mundane or life-altering, these choices define us and shape our lives. Sheena Iyengar asks the difficult questions about how and why we choose: Is the desire for choice innate or bound by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Sheena Iyengar's award-winning research reveals that the answers are surprising and profound. In our world of shifting political and cultural forces, technological revolution, and interconnected commerce, our decisions have far-reaching consequences. Use THE ART OF CHOOSING as your companion and guide for the many challenges ahead.

329 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Sheena Iyengar

5 books111 followers
Sheena Iyengar is the S.T. Lee Professor of Business at Columbia University and a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award. She holds an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School of Business and a doctorate in social psychology from Stanford University. Her work is regularly cited in periodicals such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and TIME.

Considered one of the world's experts on choice, Sheena has written her own book, The Art of Choosing. In the book, she explores questions such as why choice is powerful, and where its power comes from; the ways in which people make choices; the relationship between how we choose and who we are; why we are so often disappointed by our choices; how much control we really have over our everyday choices; how we choose when our options are practically unlimited; and whether we should ever let others choose for us, and if so, whom and why.

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5 stars
1,749 (27%)
4 stars
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3 stars
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1 star
128 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 542 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer.
22 reviews
May 12, 2011
I had to read this non-fiction book quite slowly, over the course of a month, annoying friends and colleagues by citing Iyengar's studies as they attempted to choose items off a menu, though even this slow pace wasn't long enough to really make the information stick in my brain.
Iyengar presents a rather overwhelming amount of information on her enormous and fascinating topic, mostly in the form of psychology experiments about how people choose things and make decisions both trivial and life or death...these experiments on far-flung subjects are glued together by her own analysis, antecdotes, and musings. So much material was presented on so many aspects of choice that I felt its significance continually slipping from my grasp. Because of the sheer scope of the topic, and the sometimes contradictory conclusions that the studies showed, it was tricky as a non-psychologist to synthesize the material into a coherent outline. In a few instances does the book have a take-home message that was easy enough to hang on to and those bits were the most interesting to me (especially in the discussion of situations where one is presented with so many choices, for example in health care plans or retirement investments, that one gives up or procrastinates and decides not to choose at all, thereby making the worst possible choice)
Taken to its logical conclusion, "the art of choosing" starts with the selection of strawberry jam over rasperry, but expands to cover the whole act of making life decisions (or not making decisions) and inevitably lands on the eternal question of when and whether to assign life's twists and turns to chance, fate, or choice. In this way it felt like a timely book to read when every street corner in my town is plastered with Credit Suisse adverts proclaiming "Erfolg ist die Summe richtige Entscheidungen" (Success is the summation of a series of correct decisions). Iyengar points out in her own way that this is sometimes the case and sometimes not. Sometimes, for example, it can even be far better to have someone else make choices for you (chapter on doctors making difficult medical decisions and effect on guilt-grief).
The ending dips its toe into a big pool of philosophical questions...maybe she had no choice but to go there, but I find these big questions are more elegantly dealt with in fiction or straight up philosophy.
Living in a time where a huge number of choices present themselves, and a country where everyone likes to be or at least consult with an expert on every choice, and feeling occasionally overwhelmed by this, I appreciated the following sentence from the book "To begin with, we have to change our attitudes toward choice, recognizing that it is not an unconditional good. We must respect the constraints on our cognitive abilities and resources that prevent us from fully exploring complex choices, and stop blaming ourselves for not finding the very best option every time."
There is alot of worthwhile information in the book, and I highly recommend reading it despite the 3-star rating. Iyengar is a sympathetic, funny, and insightful writer and thinker. It's just that it may make your head spin a little...and bring about unwanted bouts of commentary at resteraunts.
Profile Image for Odai Al-Saeed.
867 reviews2,382 followers
July 14, 2012
فقدت شيينا أينغار (مؤلفة الكتاب ) بصرها في عمر الخامسة عشر وهي التي جاءت من أبوين هندوسي الأصل هاجرا الى كندا فازدوجت بذلك هويتها وإختلطت بتلك التقاليد المعتقة مع فكر الغرب ،إن لهذه المؤلفة الحائزة على الدكتوراة حس فريد تحسد عليه ،،، تقول الكاتبة في مقدمة الكتاب عندما تقينت من فقدان بصرها: لا يهم مدى استعدادنا لمواجهة أمر ما ، بل أن يكون دائما بامكاننا التغلب على الشعور بالهزيمة
تستهل كتابها الشيق بتلك الخيارات التي انتقاها من هم آثروا البقاء على قيد الحياة تحت ضغوط كوارث واجهتهم وكيف كانت هي العزيمة في انتقاء البدائل للذود بنتيجة الانتصار
ولعل ما هو جدير بالذكر أيضا أن أسرد تلك الاقتباسة التي جاءت في منتصف الكتاب حيث تقول
إن الانتقاء يفرض علينا أن نفكر بعمق عمن نكون بنظرنا وبنظر المحيطين بنا ، إن وضعنا جانبا مسألة إعتبار الذات ومثاليتها ، فقد نتمكن من ملاحظة هويتنا على أنها ديناميكية وليست شيئا قابلا غير قابل للتحول ،إن عملية النحت والصقل لذاتنا التي نمارسها عبر اعتمادنا للقرارات هي ما يحدد ماهية ذاتنا .نحن عبارة عن نحاتين وجدنا أنفسنا في صلب عملية انتقاء لا في مرحلة حصد نتائجها..... عندما نغير من طريقة تفسيرنا بهدف اعتماد مرونة أكبر وانسيابية ،،نصبح ملزمين باعتناق خيارات ذات معنى تلبي حاجاتنا نظرا إلى أوضاعنا الاجتماعية الطارئة "وهنا أقول ومن خلال هذه الكلمات كيف استفادت هذه الكاتبة على تطوير ديناميكية شخصيتها مستفيدة من هذا الإزدواج في هويتها (الثقافية والدينية والجينية...الخ)
فمن الأمور التي تحدد من خلالها خياراتنا وتؤثر في شخصيتنا العامة في فكر الحياة وإرثنا الماضي بمعتقداته الى صناعة الموضة تضامنا ووسائل الاعلام الحديث و تأثيرات كل من حولنا في فرض ذوقه سواءبطريقة مباشرة أو بغير خالقا لنا بدائل للمفاضلة وما تعتريه النفس من مقاومة للإغراء وتوابعه جاءت فصول الكتاب فأبدعت في صفحاته وتجلت في فلسفة فكره ....أنصح به
199 reviews145 followers
June 8, 2012
Here are a few lines from the wiki profile of the author

Sheena Iyengar was born in Toronto, Canada in 1969. Her parents had emigrated there from Delhi, India.
When Iyengar was three years old, she was diagnosed with a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease of retinal degeneration. By 6th grade, Iyengar had lost the ability to read, and by 11th grade, she had lost her sight entirely and could only perceive light. Iyengar’s life had also taken another turn in high school; when she was 13, her father died of a heart attack.

I found the above fact very intriguing and it played a part in making me finally picking up the book.

The thing that I remember most from the book is a passage where she has written about a general person's personality traits and behaviors. While reading this passage I got the feel as if it has been written exclusively for me and as if she is talking about my very own personality. A little spooky, huh?

This will be an extremely eventful ride for everyone especially those who have not already read any of the behavioral gurus like Gladwell, Ariely or Tim Harford.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,396 followers
August 23, 2010
By the time I finished this book I found I wanted to start it all over again. Sometimes I think I may have missed my calling, by not pursuing the field of decision-making. I am so bad at it, and yet I recognize that it is the key to navigating the modern world in the West, where the simplest decisions are rendered ridiculously complex by the plethora of choice.

Iyengar covers the waterfront with her examination of choice, from birth to death, and addresses many of the major life choices most of us face in the course of our lives. She recognizes the difficulties each of us face in choosing colleges, spouses, jobs, houses, and discusses the irrationality many of us bring to our own choices. Several times I felt my heart beating a little faster when she began to describe a difficult choice that was facing me now, or one that I had made in the past, but which has left me unhappy.

Iyengar suggests that decision-making can be improved by setting constraints on our options, and sticking with them. She describes conversations with artists and jazz musicians in which they claim great invention can be achieved when one sets limits on type of creation one seeks to achieve, and operating within a framework. It is too easy to flail about in a sea of options, but if we set limits for ourselves, we narrow our range, and can be satisfied and happy with choices we have made. As art is created by using objects at hand, so good, even great decisions that make us happy can be achieved within our own limited circumstances. After all, isn't it all really about being as happy and satisfied as possible, rather than miserable in the midst of plenty?

A good and thoughtful book that moves me forward with hope. The audio was beautifully read by Orlagh Cassidy.

Profile Image for Lata.
3,509 reviews187 followers
March 19, 2020
3.5 stars Pretty interesting. I liked the three major areas the author concentrated on: a) culture plays a part in how we see choice in our daily lives, b) too much choice isn't good, c) sometimes we actually would prefer is someone else made a choice where the stakes are really high.
I did learn a few things from this book, though a few were self-explanatory. And though Sheena Iyengar did open with a discussion of how choice is perceived throughout different cultures, she did not go into any great detail about how gender, class, economic status and race might also play into how choice is perceived and made. This is probably for the best, as there was already a copious amount of information in this book.
Profile Image for Ibrahim Abdulla.
213 reviews454 followers
February 17, 2012
على مدى ما يقارب العقد من الزمان كانت شيينا إينغار - الأستاذة في جامعة كولومبيا الأمريكية- تبحث في موضوع قد يستحيل البحث فيه .. الاختيار . وما يزيد الموضوع صعوبةً هو أن شيينا ذات الأصول الهندية تنتمي لديانة السيخ المتشددة في تقاليدها وتعاليمها .. حيث تقرر الكثير من الأمور في حياة المنتمي لهذه الديانة من زواجه وحياته الخ .. مقللة من حرية الاختيار لدى الفرد

في هذا الكتاب شيينا لا تقدم إجابات جاهزة؛ فهي تحاول التغلغل في أساس الموضوع من جوانب عدة مثل : القدر في مقابل الحرية، الثقافات الإجتماعية وتأثيرها على الاختيار، وهل فعلاً الاختيار كلمة ترادف السعادة؟ وإلى أي مدى من الممكن أن يأثر الاختيار على سير حياتنا؟ مستعينه على ذلك بأكثر من تخصص ومجال كعلم الاجتماع, وعلم النفس، وغيرهما ...

إذا خيّر أحد منّا بين الحلوى والموت؛ فماذا سيختار؟ ( !! ) قد تبدو الإجابة سهلة على هذا السؤال، لكن ليت الحياة تسير على هذا المنوال .. فالأمور قد تبدو أكثر تعقيداً في أحيان كثيرة عندما نختار شريك حياتنا، الدراسة الخ .. ولنأخذ شريك الحياة كمثال، هل اختيارنا له ( بكامل حريتنا ) يمنحنا السعادة؟ قد يسارع الكثير منّا ( خصوصاً من يعيش في زماننا هذا، و المتأثر بالثقافة الأمريكية غالباً ) ويقول: بالطبع! وهل هناك من شك؟ من منا لا يريد أن يعيش حياة سيندريلا !؟

في هذا الصدد تطرح شيينا قصة فتاة ( لكن ليست سندريلا هذه المرة ) من أرض الواقع، هذه الفتاة عاشت في القرن الخامس عشر اختارها الإمبراطور شاه جاهان كزوجة ثالثة له، تم انتقاء الصبية( ممتاز محال ) وهي لم تتجاوز السادسة عشرة من عمرها، كان عليها أن ترافقه في حله وترحاله وحملاته العسكرية منجبة خلال تلك الفترة ثلاثة عشر ولداً .. يقال بأنه وقع في حبها من أول نظرة، وتغنّا الشعراء في مدحها كزوجة مثالية وكزواج مثالي .. وافتها المنية وهي تضع ولدها الرابع عشر وما كان من الأمبراطور إلا أن يأمر بتشيد ذكرى لزو��ته التي أحبها من كل قلبه عرفاناً لها على الأوقات الجميلة التي أمضاها معها و كتتويج لقصة زواج أسطورية .. وبذلك تم بناء أحد عجائب الدنيا السبعة : تاج محل!


لكن شيينا لا تريد القول بأن الزواج الذي يتم بدون اختيار الزوجة ينتهي كهذا الزواج، لكن في النفس الوقت قد لا ينتهي مثل ما قد يتصور البعض .. كل ما تريد الوصول إليه هو أن الثقافات المختلفة تنظر لموضوع الاختيار نظرة تختلف من ثقافة إلى أخرى؛ ففي إحدى در��ساتها اختارت مجموعتين من الأطفال من أصول مختلفة الأولى من اليابان والثانية من أمريكا وقدمت لهم بعض الأدوات وقالت : بأن هذا من اختيار والدتكم . ما رأته من اليابانيين كان مختلفاً عن الأمريكيين، حيث بدت علامات الرضا والطمأنينة على وجوه المجموعة الأولى التي تنتمي إلى ثقافة تعاونية اجتماعية بخلاف المجموعة الثانية التي تعتمد على التفرد و "أرض الأحلام" ! ومن هنا تقول بإن الموضوع ليس بالسهولة التي قد نظنها ..

مع ذلك تعود لتأكد بإن الاختيار غالباً ما يسبب الراحة النفسية للشخص، بل تؤكد في دراساتها بإن الاختيار ضرورة وإن توفرت لك كافة الاحتياجات، وترى هذا حتى عند الحيوانات التي قد تتمرد بحثاُ عن حريتها ( هروبها من حديقة الحيوانات ) ، لكن تحاول شيينا أن تحلل الكثير من الأمور التي تأثر على اختيارتنا كالإعلانات والتسويق، المفاعلة ( أن تُعطى الحرية في مجال مع بعض الاستثناءات .. قصة آدم -عليه السلام - كمثال ! ) التركيز في خياراتنا ( يمكنك قياس مدى تركيزك في هذا الموقع : http://www.simonslab.com/videos.html )
وغيرها .

الكتاب مليء بالأمثلة والدراسات والمواضيع الحساسة التي كان في ودّي كتابتها لولا خشية التطويل. أحسست بإن الترجمة سيئة في بعض الجوانب و في جوانب أخرى إنتابني بعض الملل من الطرح، لكن في المجمل تعتبر تجربة مميزة، إضافة إلى أن الكتاب يكاد يكون الوحيد في هذا المجال .
Profile Image for Vonia.
611 reviews97 followers
August 27, 2021
Sheena Iyengar has written one of the most extensive, readable, notable, praiseworthy books on social psychology, especially decision making. I will not write much, as much of it is intriguing studies, discussion, & inquiries that has a reader reconsidering many different parts of their lives and/or life decisions that I could not easily summarize. And in the newest edition, Iyengar herself has included a summary at the end that is better than any I could ever try writing. I would, of course, demand readers read the entire book rather than simply the summary, but her synopsis is admittedly quite a useful guide. In fact, I have retread it a few times to remind myself of what I have learned.

More is sometimes less. We all lie to ourselves.
47 reviews
May 14, 2010
This book discusses some research (by the author and others) about how we make choices, and how having too many choices can lead to difficult decision making. But it's interesting that the author chooses to ignore all the existing research that contradicts the point she is trying to make.

Take for example her "jam study", where people offered 6 varieties of jam samples were much more likely to buy jam in a store than those offered 24 different samples. The author is well aware that other researchers have replicated this study and found no effect. There was even a recent paper published with a meta-analysis of about 50 similar studies. They found many instances where having more options to choose from made decision making easier. But, they also found many studies with the complete opposite conclusion, and in a good number of studies there was no effect at all. The average effect over all of the studies was nearly zero. It seems to me that the interesting research question would therefore be about what conditions led to the different results of these studies (why are more options better in certain cases, while fewer options are better in others). Even if the author disagrees with those contradictory results, they should have at least been mentioned. Instead, the author specifically states on page 190, without any footnotes or references to research, that other similar studies consistently come up with the same results as the jam study. This is not true.

Another thing that bothers me about this book and this type of research is the tendency of some people to interpret these results as an argument in favor of government restriction of choices. The claim is that people will be happier if they have fewer choices, thus the government should either limit our choices directly or redistribute income so that eventually less is produced and we have fewer available options. The author doesn't explicitly advocate this interpretation, though, so I shouldn't blame her for the idiocy of others.

Though I disagreed with some of the conclusions, this was still a thought-provoking book, and I would recommend it to others.
Profile Image for عبدالرحمن عقاب.
672 reviews754 followers
July 15, 2013
كتابٌ نافع مفيد. يعرض لمسألة اتخاذ القرارات من أكثر من زاوية نفسية وعصبية واجتماعية، مدعّم بالدراسات نتائج الأبحاث مما يزيده مصداقية وعمقًا في الطرح.

ويمتاز الكتاب كون صاحبته (المؤلفة) هي بحد ذاتها باحثة معروفة في هذا المضمار،وهي صاحبة تجربة الاختيار من بين أصناف المربى وهي تجربة شهيرة ومؤثرة في فهم الإنسان وقدرته على الاختيار من بين ا��خيارات المتعددة.

لن تجد في الكتاب دليلاً لأفضل طرق اتخاذ القرار، بل ستجد فيه فهمًا لتجربة اتخاذ القرار. (كيف ولماذا وما هي المؤثرات المنظورة وغير المنظورة في هذه العملية). كما أنّ العقلية البحثية للكاتبة أنتجت تساؤلات ونقاش عميق ومفيد لبعض التجارب ونتائجها. كما أنّ الأصول الشرقية للكاتبة أضفت على الكتاب جوًّا من النظرة المتوازنة لشطري العالم (شرقيه وغربيه) من حيث أثر البيئة والطبيعة على فكر الإنسان وتفكيره، وهذا ما يُفتقد غالبًا في كتابات الغربيين
Profile Image for Mary.
826 reviews45 followers
June 22, 2012
Okay, so I'm probably starting out with a spoiler, but Sheela Iyengar is the person who conducted the jam study--that jam study! In books about choice, this is like being Keith Richards. For those of you unfamiliar, the jam study took place in a super-market: 20 kinds of jams on display to taste, people were less likely to buy a jam than 7 kinds of display. The magic number is 7 + or - 2, not coincidentally like how many items we can keep in our short-term memory. Iyengar, unlike some other authors in this genre, is a big fan of choice, but points out that we need to manage the ways (and places) that we make choices. Sometimes people are much happier with choice and control (older people in a rest home choosing a plan and then choosing to take care of it live longer), and sometimes people struggle with choice (parents having to decide whether to continue life support for their babies suffer depression under the pressure). Not as well-written, I think, as Paradox, but still a page-turner. If you so choose!
Profile Image for Wouter.
Author 2 books24 followers
June 11, 2015
I came across this book by accident so it wasn't a choice by adding it on my toread list. The more I read, the more it reminded me of a book I read last year; "Willpower" by mr. Baumeister, and I liked that book a lot. The Art of Choosing is a pleasant read full of stories and weird psychological/social experiments done in very different domains and it keeps on entertaining that way.
The only downside I can think of is that it's not a ver practical book; don't expect to learn the "3 rules of thumb to make any choice in life easier". You will however gain a (little bit of) insight on how choosing works and why we feel good or bad after the choosing process. The sheer scope of the book does make it very difficult to gain an overview on what you've actually read.
After finishing it and taking some notes during my read, I now can safely say that I don't have any clue on what to remember except that it was a very good book...
Profile Image for فادي أحمد.
507 reviews837 followers
January 9, 2019
تعجبني هذه الكتب التي تصنف ضمن ما يندرج تحت اسم « علم الاقتصاد السلوكي» وتناقش قضايا الاختيار.
هل حقاً خياراتنا نابعة من تفكير عميق ودراسة مستفيضة؟
تذكر آخر لباس اشتريته هل كان بناء على ذوقك الشخصي أو أن هناك من رشحه لك؟
لم تفضل الكوكا كولا على الببسي؟
لم تحب الجينز الفاتح على الغامق؟
لو كان أمامك في المتجر ٣٠٠٠ نوع مربى هل تعتقد أن كثرة هذه الخيارات مساعدة أكثر لك؟!
هذه الأسئلة وغيرها يجيب عنها هذا الكتاب..
ومما فاجئني أكثر أن المؤلفة ضريرة ☹️
Profile Image for Max.
191 reviews138 followers
April 27, 2012
Outstanding and prolific, amazing book by an awesome author

"We do the same thing in our lives- embracing information that supports what we already prefer or vindicates choices we made. After all, it feels better to justify our opinions rather than challenge them"
-my pick of the quotes from the book

The Introduction is warm and amiable, you get to picture a little bit of the writer's life and character, events in her past which then shaped her life and including the project of this book, when you read how she believed that everything was written to the point she was helpless and thought she couldn't have a choice or make a change, it all link with the post chapters..

I loved the stories about the survivors and how people underestimate their abilities to endure pressure and struggle, also the big impact religions and faiths have on their followers including positive and negative effects.

One "unique" thing about the book, is the journey of its writer around the world, like India, Spain, Germany, and Japan, I liked the tea and sugar story- that was hilarious.

Best thing overall about this book is its psychological and philosophical studies which teach you one thing or two about how people think and interpret others actions or impressions, I learned that its not just about me being awake in a crowd of sheep, I've learned that others also have deep thoughts and complex ideas and choices that vary..

Why 4 stars? because both the book and its writer have influenced me in so many ways, touching stories and being an eye-opener for a lot of stuff that happens around us, I learned about what they call "reactance" in psychology and also our "right to choose".

I'm not going to spoil it, I'll leave you to read the book for yourself.
Profile Image for Hubert.
681 reviews39 followers
October 3, 2017
Effectively written: takes the issue of choice from various perspectives, cultural, psychological, evolutionary, and business. The beginning and the final chapters were the best; the book really takes off after she describes her Menlo Park jam experiment. In general the coolest parts of the book involved her description and distillation of important psychological experiments which involve the subject of choice.

One aspect of choice she may consider more deeply is how our morality affects decision-making. She alludes to cases where people must make difficult "better of two evils" choices but she does not account for choosers' internal thought processes in these cases.

In general Iyengar packs in many thinking points over which to ponder.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
July 2, 2019
I really liked the first 1/3rd of this book and then the rest of it just devolved into the same old behavioral econ stuff that every single other book just rehashes. I am so tired of it. Then when I read the acknowledgements, it totally made sense. Seems her main inspiration for writing a book was a conversation with Malcolm Gladwell. It's too bad because I wanted to hear more about Iyengar's own very fascinating life and experience. Instead, it was the book Gladwell would have written about choice.
Profile Image for Dessie.
271 reviews6 followers
November 10, 2022
I really really liked this book and found it very informative. The reason for taking off 1* is that the last few chapters had a different tone for me to the rest of the book and I didn't like the change of pace. Nevertheless, it was really interesting to read and I've taken notes of things to implement in the future.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
22 reviews2 followers
March 17, 2010
I absolutely loved this book. The author goes to great lengths to clarify why we make the choices we make. She looks at how we are raised helps influence how we approach decisions, how other influence us in the moment of making a choice, how we really feel about the choices we make and how even when you abstain from making a choice you are still making a choice.
I really enjoyed reading this as it was able to be both personal and informative. i hope this doesn't end up getting lumped in with "The Secret" or "Positive Thinking" or some other self help schlock. she is looking much deeper than the same make-good-choices mantra constantly being recycled. She speaks more of humanity and how that is always being balanced by instinct. Basically, she doesn't treat you like an idiot and isn't trying to sell you something. She is an academic and wants to present some interesting findings.
There is at least one scientific study to go along with each layer of analysis. most of the studies are with prestigious companies, schools or other institutions. I am a total sucker for scientific validity, so this helped me swallow some of her more abrasive theories.
If you are looking for some solid non fiction, give this one a whirl.
Profile Image for Chhun.
74 reviews42 followers
October 20, 2012
What I really learn about Sheena is that she taught me about her excitement and optimism in choosing. She didn't choose blindness, and being blind took many options off the table, but her bodily condition that she didn't choose let her to make the most of what she could choose.

Whether or not, we have to choose because we are the master of our choice; otherwise, we'll find ourselves trapped as a slave of choosing. Remember we have the power to go from where are today to where we want to be tomorrow by choice, not by him, not her or them but by ourselves. We are the architects of our future.
Profile Image for Trish.
432 reviews25 followers
May 20, 2010
p265: It is tempting to promote choice as the great equalizer--after all, that's what so many dreams, including the American one, are built on. ... We should not, however, take this to mean that faith, hope, and rhetoric alone are sufficient. Like the swimming rats in Richter's experiment, we can survive for only so long without solid ground beneath our feet; if the choices aren't real, sooner or later we will go under.

Profile Image for David.
516 reviews7 followers
June 1, 2014
I seldom write a long critique on a book because i) I choose the book because it is my decision ii) whatever I write should not alter other people POV iii) to back up with ii), hopefully providing a more neutral ground for other readers to decide to buy, to borrow, to read or just to read the review...Decisions, decisions, decisions..many decisions to be made in the modern days..author is, new to me, since I have not exposed too much to the reading field of decision making. Author is very well known in the research field on "choosing" which is very interesting to me as my interests is focus on consumer behavior...which choosing is the foundations towards service marketing, advertising, consumptions, reckless consumptions, environmental wastes, etc...to refer to the Chinese translation I picked up, I am going to pick out on specific pages because these are the interesting aspects. To move forward a bit, this book was good to read at first, but then, the focus of the book got dispersed, and started to be less interesting and it seems that author has used a lot of research backings at the first half of the book, then it became the personal opinion on her moral standings about decision making which is ok, but not perfect. In the Chinese translation version: i) Page 35: Author points out that it is important that people feel they must have a decision choice to control, it does not matter whether they have the actual power to control..again..as long as they "FEEL" they have the power. (advertisers, HMO, etc later mentioned they have use this technique to undermine consumers and the public)ii) page 76: explaining American athletes are often describing their successes as personal journey rather than as a group back, supports to the betterment. Author did not go into the details of the culture aspects..American family often use the low language which relate to their overall culture and upbringings..(You are on your own), and the language is very direct (low)..and no grey area. Rather, a Japanese family and the culture are high language based which grey area are often used..American (individualism) vs Japanese (collectivism). iii) page 82: Author mentions Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom: has two aspects: Freedom from and Freedom to. To me: freedom is much more than explaining this in absolute literal term. Freedom is when one has the rights "not to", "refrain from" doing what he/she wants to. (Self Control). Everyone wants to do what he/she wants is not freedom..because some want to kill, some want to hurt, some want to protect..the prior and often use expression do not cover every aspects nor cover the exact meaning of freedom. iv) page 85: explaining why the eastern bloc patients would rather have fewer doctors to choose because too many choices may not be good. And everyone has the same doctor will provide the "feeling" that equality is implemented. And it explains to some that less is more and decision without deciding may be better in life v) page 89 greatly reflects what author believes that America is a land of free..and she points out that "only" if you work hard and pursuit for your dream..but the best line Brad Pitt on "Killing Them Softly" movie: Jefferson was great because he created a best quote: All Men are created Equal. and Brad further cited that Jefferson is nothing more than a slave owner and at the end of the day, he would do the nasty with his slaves because he is rich..and in America, freedom has a price tag, you work hard, you get paid and that is all as realistic as it gets. America ain't free at all. vi) author points out that "everyone wants" to be different. Page 110 mentions "better than average effect"..actually everyone is the same. To me: I have a better expression: what you think has already became the history of what other think. vii) self intimacy is described on page 112. viii) page 122 mentions the importance of "importance of job" vs "importance of family time"..ix) page 125 almost mentions the theory of Similarity..(Similar people love to get together with similar people with the same interests or opposite interests may be?)..x) the THEME of this book: Logic vs Emotional decision. We are driven by emotional first, then logic kicks in later. The emotional drive is the automatic system embedded within ourselves. xi) great mentioning of we often think we are in a comfortable position and often we do not do anything about it..pg 148 xii) pg150. Shiller Case Index xiii) great mentioning of Confirmation Biases (pg 151) on interviews. Companies are too centric to look for someone who are already in their minds. xiv) mere exposure effect explaining when we are exposed to something that we feel neutral at the beginning, soon, we will becoming more in love with. pg177. And this is exactly what advertisers are using: to control the choices, then show the choices. xv) author further elaborates on pg195: our thinking system has 2 modes: Logic/thinking and subconscious/automatic.xvi) Priming: Instigating thoughts pg198 xvii) pg200-203: on election. whatever gets the vote ballot number 1: gets more vote. and yes, if looks can kill xviii) p. 232: Multiple/various choices often make us choosing the "best choices"..because it has gotten one too many. But it is important to provide many choices, so at least people CAN make at least/some best choices. xix) pg243-244: sometimes more different selections/less volume can provide consumers a comfortable choosing feel. and at times, fewer selections at the beginning can provide easing environment first and easier to choose when more items are added on. xx) Red Button Syndrome: the things that are more restricted tend to create the most curiosity. Reactance as called it. But reactance can draw backfire..eg: high tax on cigarettes will create black market and crime. xxi) Akrasia is mentioned as lack of self control and finally Camus's The Myth of Sisphus's theme is enjoy your ride even though it sucks and provide discomfort. But you still do it..xxii) Author provides a general guideline for choosing: a) reduce the volume b) built self confidence/self efficacy c) categorize d) self adjust.
Profile Image for Fabio Ismerim Ismerim.
116 reviews6 followers
March 20, 2017
A autora passou décadas atuando no ramo de pesquisa sobre como as escolhas nos moldam e interferem em nossa visão de mundo. Ela fez sua pós-graduação em Standford e teve aulas com ninguém menos que Amos Tversky, pioneiro na ciência cognitiva e co-autor de diversas pesquisas e trabalhos realizados com Daniel KahnemanDaniel Kahneman .

Achei interessante como culturas influenciam na forma como fazemos nossas escolhas. Muitos preferem ser livre e ter opções para escolher, já outros preferem mais que as escolham sejam mais direcionadas por alguma outra autoridade.

Também gostei de saber que ter muitas opções para escolher não é algo necessariamente benéfico, prejudicando muito nosso desempenho em fazer a melhor escolha. A pesquisa da geleia que foi amplamente difundida e citada, onde ela mostrou que uma loja nos EUA achava que ter muitas opções de produtos é algo bom, no entanto, nada daquilo transformava em venda.
Menos é mais.

Muito bom para quem gosta de ciência cognitiva, behavior-econ, e até mesmo para ajudar em um melhor desempenho nas tomadas de decisões.

Profile Image for Robyn Morgan.
9 reviews2 followers
August 22, 2017
"Choice draws power from its promise of almost infinite possibility, but what is possible is also what is unknown. We can use choice to shape our lives, but we still face great uncertainty."

And sometimes, in some very special circumstances, it's better not to have any choices at all.

Profile Image for Janet.
670 reviews15 followers
May 29, 2020
The author is a professor at the Columbia University School of Business. I heard her interviewed on NPR about this book and it sounded very interesting, which it was. It covers trivial decisions to those that have major implications.

31 reviews
January 10, 2011
As the author detailed her social experiments on choice, I kept thinking how fun it would be to do those experiments. Being a social scientist sounds like fun! There's no but -- I still wish I could spend my day thinking of ways to see how people think.

I first heard of Sheena Iyengar when I saw her TED talk. She writes very much as she speaks -- very simply, personally, and engagingly. I was initially a little put off by her personal anecdotes, thinking that they didn't address her issues so much as make her a more sympathetic narrator. But given that a lot of the experiments in the book are scientists watching the behavior of everyone from little kids to shoppers, it's good to see a little into a scientist's personal life.

I liked how she blended in pop culture, history, mythology, and web phenomena to fill out a picture of our world. In our current environment, where we're in thrall to ubiquitous advertising, it's helpful to have someone explaining how the tricks are done. As a developer of a web product, it made me think about how best to engage our audience.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,697 reviews14.1k followers
April 26, 2011
Didn't like it quite as much as many of the reviewers on this site. Found the experminets with the rats (and I don't like rats) and the dogs (my uber dog lover Katherine would find these very disturbing) cruel to say the least. Also much of the book seemed to be what one could figure out using common sense. Did learn and few things and some parts of this book were more interesting than others.
Profile Image for Jenn.
163 reviews
October 9, 2018
I might have learned more from this book if I had read it closer to its publication date, but by now I had already read about almost all the studies the author mentions in other places. I think a better title for this book would be A Discussion on Choice. You aren't going to get any practical tips about choosing until the afterword.
Profile Image for Sheena Abraham.
19 reviews7 followers
April 4, 2016
It's one of those books you want to read a few times over to fully grasp. It can get long and comprehensive, but the idea of choice and perception is very meaningful. Sometimes what we think is real isn't real and vice versa.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,716 reviews638 followers
Currently reading
May 18, 2010
This is being compared to The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
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