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The Art of Choosing

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  6,018 ratings  ·  511 reviews
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
Hardcover, 329 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Twelve (first published January 1st 2010)
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 ·  6,018 ratings  ·  511 reviews

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May 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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 d
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: awesome-reads
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
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 gre
Apr 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2010 rated it liked it
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 research
Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: choice
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 auth ...more
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 thu
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
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 cho ...more
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 "T
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 tomorr
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.

Robyn Morgan
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-the-shelf
"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.

May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 10, 2011 rated it liked it
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 muc
Diane S ☔
Apr 25, 2011 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Oct 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
Sheena Abraham
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Apr 20, 2010 is currently reading it
This is being compared to The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 is, new to me, since I have not exposed too much to the reading field of decision making. Author is very well k ...more
High Plains Library District
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: andrea, adult, nonfiction
This book is an interesting look into how we make choices. Iyengar has studied decision-making in a wide variety of contexts.

There are a variety of fascinating studies she notes during the book, showing interesting factors that affect our decision-making. She is most famous for her jam experiments, showing how we react to an overload of choices. In this experiment, she found that people might be more likely to sample jams if there are lots of options, we are more likely to buy them if there are
Nilesh Injulkar
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help
A lot of studies have been mentioned in the book, there are lot of interesting psychological experiments referenced to support the point the author is trying to make. That way this book is really nice collection, summary of studies and experiments about choice and various aspects of it.

Practically speaking, though, it has a lot of information about complex topic like choice. Many observations of experiments even contradict with others adding more complexity to the already complex topic.
If you e
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
It revolves around discipline at the end. Books presented with several surveys and researches. It talks more about what you will do and sometime why you would do what you do but either not or very succinctly touches how to overcome it. The first chapter has been started with interesting stories but I kept waiting for any practical tips or any framework which the book failed to provide. Though, some notes I extracted I finished it in 10 hours only, it is a kind of causal read, no deeper instances ...more
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I drew a lot of strength from the constructs in this book through my twenties. I have so often quoted the experiments in various situations to provide perspective to others. In surprised how well I remember them even today. They stayed with me 10 years after reading it. It's one of those books who want to read early in your life :) ...more
NDF at 24%, when it comes to self help books I am really picky and this book is not just for me
Rachel Morrison
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are some really fascinating studies in this book!
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Crazy spoiler for Sophie's Choice though ...more
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Definitely raised some interesting points. I can definitely pick up some important tips and use them to become less obsessive about making the right choice. Anyway... I will have to give it a second read...
Marcelo Quintella
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is not for everyone. I'd certainly not classify it as a "must read".

But if you like reading about human behavior, this has some fascinating nuggets of information.

It's not quite "work related", but it has some applications. So here it goes....
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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.

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