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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Art of Choosing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    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 lif 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Prashant

    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 tak 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    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 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Interesting little book that really makes its readers think about what they choose, whether it's their purchases, their friends or even the simple act of saying yes or no.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Max

    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 p 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    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 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!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hubert

    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 affe 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    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 ot 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wouter

    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 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...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    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 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    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 w 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chhun

    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 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robyn Morgan

    "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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Drani

    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 i 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    HBalikov

    This is being compared to The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    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 k 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nilesh Injulkar

    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 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 expect this book, like many self help books, to provide you 3 4 rules, with examples to support those, which when applied will make you a better chooser, then you will stand disappointed. Many experiments and perspectives about choice are really interesting though. Being Indian, I found comparison of Indian and American culture in terms of how it impacts our choosing and how we feel about choosing very interesting. The impact of having more choices, less choices or a lot of choices on how we feel was also interesting. Connection between how much choice did we really had while making a decision with our happiness, and fulfillment was mind blowing. Overall, a nice book with different perspectives, well, only if any of the information sticks your mind. “Choice is an enormously powerful force, an essential determinant of how we live.”

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janine

    NDF at 24%, when it comes to self help books I am really picky and this book is not just for me

  22. 4 out of 5

    Noelle

    Crazy spoiler for Sophie's Choice though

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lokesh Jindal

    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...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    I'm not so crazy about this book. I feel its reach exceeds its grasp. First I thought it was the pop-science genre in general, but when I picked up Brian Christian's Most Human Human I couldn't put it down. In comparison The Art of Choosing is sluggish, and sometimes a little out of left field. For example, in a study she did with a grad student, they tracked "hundreds of graduating college seniors" describing their ideal job over a six to nine month period that it took the subjects to find work: I'm not so crazy about this book. I feel its reach exceeds its grasp. First I thought it was the pop-science genre in general, but when I picked up Brian Christian's Most Human Human I couldn't put it down. In comparison The Art of Choosing is sluggish, and sometimes a little out of left field. For example, in a study she did with a grad student, they tracked "hundreds of graduating college seniors" describing their ideal job over a six to nine month period that it took the subjects to find work: "each time, we asked them to rank the same 13 attributes of a job, including "high income," "opportunity for advancement," "job security," "opportunity for creativity," and "freedom to make decisions," from most to least important." (This appears on page 99-100, c03, end of section iv.) She doesn't say what it is she was expecting to find, but she does talk about cognitive dissonance and how perceptions of self change retroactively as priorities change over time, as in "It wasn't just that they couldn't remember their original preferences but that they actively reimagined their past." I'm still on board here, but she concludes with: "the more successfully they were able to resolve this conflict, by creating a false but consistent story about their values in the life-defining category of "career," the better off they were. [emphasis mine] Those who recalled their past preferences less accurately were happier with the jobs they accepted. These protective illusions prevented them from recognizing their inconsistency, allowing them to choose in accordance with their latest priorities rather than feeling obligated to the ones they had outlined earlier in the process." So how exactly does happier with a choice of job equal better off? Maybe it's just a poorly chosen phrase but it's awfully judgmental to just say "better". So, those who recalled their past preferences more accurately were less satisfied with their job choice and were ultimately worse off? Doesn't follow. Is it better because choice is in the name of the book? What about the people who wouldn't cognitively compromise and kept on their original course despite shifting priorities? Who's to say they're haven't made the better choice, sticking it out and following their dreams? This isn't the only time I get this feeling of being led, either. Maybe I'm too skeptical for it, but this is a logical chasm I can't make myself cross. So I'm stopping at page 100 for awhile.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Roberto Andonie

    There were two or three ideas here which by itself made the book worth it for me. One was more an examination of how choice is a modeling act, a defining action for our identity. The author uses the analogy of an sculpture in progress (our identity being the unfinished sculpture and choice is a tool to unearth it beneath all the marble of shoulds and shouldnts). But then, our identity, turns out, is a dynamic process rather than a static sculpture (conditions may change or we may change with tim There were two or three ideas here which by itself made the book worth it for me. One was more an examination of how choice is a modeling act, a defining action for our identity. The author uses the analogy of an sculpture in progress (our identity being the unfinished sculpture and choice is a tool to unearth it beneath all the marble of shoulds and shouldnts). But then, our identity, turns out, is a dynamic process rather than a static sculpture (conditions may change or we may change with time, hopefully as we grow wiser, etc). This presents us with the problem of not only having a plethora of options to choose from (thank you capitalism), there is also many potential selves we could be. This points to the challenge of being ourselves while remaining adaptable, and the conflicts and contradictions we face, and how that can make choosing so hard. The author proposes to strive for consistency at a "higher level" such as a moral code, ideals, etc. I found comforting her perspective that choice could be seem as an "ongoing act of creation" rather than "an effort to break down what we dont want to be". There is a lot of interesting facts, information and history revolving around choice and choosing with the corresponding research and experiments to support her views. The problem for me was that most outstanding ideas came early in the book and then it goes to less interesting, more sterile stuff for large sections. I would've liked to read only some chapters here and there and skip half the book, but didn't know which parts were worthy and which weren't until I read the last chapter. Now, I would recommend to read the last chapter first, which is basically a chapter by chapter in sum, to help you determine if this is what you're looking for, and/or which parts to skip.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    I really enjoyed this book. It is written in the psychology/sociology arena similar to the Malcolm Gladwell style. There were some very interesting studies presented that give the reader insight into the decision making though process. It also identifies cultural differences effecting decision making. However, I didn't love how the book ended. It felt somewhat abrupt, non-encompassing and didn't clearly translate to me what I can do to improve my decision making process. The author did attempt t I really enjoyed this book. It is written in the psychology/sociology arena similar to the Malcolm Gladwell style. There were some very interesting studies presented that give the reader insight into the decision making though process. It also identifies cultural differences effecting decision making. However, I didn't love how the book ended. It felt somewhat abrupt, non-encompassing and didn't clearly translate to me what I can do to improve my decision making process. The author did attempt to do this, but it just didn't hit home for me. My favorite quote from the book: Another way in which greater choice can lead to greater regret is the very fact that it does increase the potential benefits of choosing well, even as it makes the process of choosing more difficult. When the options are few, we can be happy with what we choose since we are confident that it is the best possible choice for us. When the options are practically infinite, though, we believe that the perfect chose for us must be out there somewhere and that it's our responsibility to find it. Choosing can then become a lose-lose situation: If we make a choice quickly without fully exploring the available options, we'll regret potentially missing out on something better; if we do exhaustively consider all the options, we'll expend more effort (which won't necessarily increase the quality of our final choice), and if we discover other good options, we may regret that we can't choose them all. This dilemma can occur for choices from the mundane, like picking a restaurant, to the highly significant, like home to marry or what career to pursue.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Utkarsh

    This book generally talks about how we make decisions. 1. Our choices are determined by two opposing systems: the automatic and the reflective. Marshmallow experiment. Those who eat the marshmallow immediately- AUTOMATIC. Delayed Gratification- REFLECTIVE. Reflective system links to greater long term success. 2. We often use rules of thumb to help us make decisions, but these can be faulty. While making the decisions our mind is biased towards the truth which This book generally talks about how we make decisions. 1. Our choices are determined by two opposing systems: the automatic and the reflective. Marshmallow experiment. Those who eat the marshmallow immediately- AUTOMATIC. Delayed Gratification- REFLECTIVE. Reflective system links to greater long term success. 2. We often use rules of thumb to help us make decisions, but these can be faulty. While making the decisions our mind is biased towards the truth which is easily available to our memory. 3. We want to make unique choices – as long as they aren’t too unique. 4. Our culture has great influence over our choices. 5. Having choices – or even the illusion of choice – makes us healthier. I have read it in the black book too. Ancient secret. 6. When making choices we often change our mind – without even noticing it. Cognitive Dissonance. 7. Our attention span is limited, so limited options help us make decisions. 8. Placing smart limits on your choices can make you a better decision maker. 9. We often feel better when others make choices for us, but only if we are properly informed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Really interesting look at all kinds of choices and how we view choice in our lives. The nursing home studies were interesting (residents given choices, even very unimportant ones, were less likely to die and happier), as were some of the others. In one, Indian arranged marriages were compared with marriages where the partners married for love. After ten years, those in arranged marriages were happier. The main take-home message of the books is that people are very irrational when the Really interesting look at all kinds of choices and how we view choice in our lives. The nursing home studies were interesting (residents given choices, even very unimportant ones, were less likely to die and happier), as were some of the others. In one, Indian arranged marriages were compared with marriages where the partners married for love. After ten years, those in arranged marriages were happier. The main take-home message of the books is that people are very irrational when they make choices. Even those who try hard not to be irrational are still irrational. Having more choices does not bring increased happiness. The author does great in explaining research and how it applies to life, but falls short when she waxes philosophical about global implications of a tiny study. For example, it's hard for me to see how asking someone what they MIGHT do and feel in a situation where they had to make a life-or-death decision about a premature baby shows absolutely what they really would do and how they really would feel.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Decision Making - what delicious fun and dreadful conundrums! Salesmen and teachers have always known that presentation matters, but Iyengar reveals just how much and why! In this exceedingly eclectic and very readable book, Iyengar discusses the tension between our automatic and reflective mental systems when making decisions. She explores the heuristics and biases present in cultural differences and the coping skills we use to diffuse cognitive dissonance. Iyengar is most famous for the "jam e Decision Making - what delicious fun and dreadful conundrums! Salesmen and teachers have always known that presentation matters, but Iyengar reveals just how much and why! In this exceedingly eclectic and very readable book, Iyengar discusses the tension between our automatic and reflective mental systems when making decisions. She explores the heuristics and biases present in cultural differences and the coping skills we use to diffuse cognitive dissonance. Iyengar is most famous for the "jam experiment" where shoppers bought significantly more when faced with a choice of 6 or less types of jam than when overwhelmed by dozens of choices. Iyengar's research promises profound impact on more than just 21st century marketing. Information overload and the complexity of our choices often lead to poor choices &/or dissatisfaction with our choices, yet we seek out the excessive input and zealously protect our freedom to choose. Should we? If we do, how do we handle it?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Devika

    Simply written, engaging and thought-provoking. Iyengar shows how we have an inherent need to choose, even if we may have the tendency to succumb to 'akrasia' (going against our better judgement). Moreover, there is somewhat of a memory/learning built through not being able to choose, a sense of helplessness that snowballs into the way we deal with subsequent experiences in our life. In addition, how we perceive the individualism vs collectivism debate is a function of our cultural upbringing, a Simply written, engaging and thought-provoking. Iyengar shows how we have an inherent need to choose, even if we may have the tendency to succumb to 'akrasia' (going against our better judgement). Moreover, there is somewhat of a memory/learning built through not being able to choose, a sense of helplessness that snowballs into the way we deal with subsequent experiences in our life. In addition, how we perceive the individualism vs collectivism debate is a function of our cultural upbringing, and this impacts the way we view everyday situations (for e.g. What we notice in an image may differ depending on which side we favour). Furthermore, we have this interesting need to recreate our perceptions to fit in line with our actions in order to avoid cognitive dissonance (i.e. acting against our own belief systems). In a nutshell, as Blaise Pascal said, "the heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing".

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