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Book Review: The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar


The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

This is a fascinating book that deals with something that we encounter every day – choice. Whether deciding what to put on your toast in the morning, or choosing your career path or who to marry, life offers at times a dizzying array of choice. But how do we choice wisely? Can we have too many choices? Sheena Iyengar has written an intelligent and lively book that explores all angles of choice. She examines the cultural aspect of choice and how that has such a strong impact on the decisions we make. For example, Asian children are much happier playing with toys that their mothers have picked out for them, while American children prefer to play with toys they have picked themselves. Likewise the author’s Indian parents were very happy to agree to an arranged marriage, whereas most Western people would find the idea abhorrent. She also explores the idea that some people make choices based on their individual needs and wants, but other people will make decisions based on what is good for the collective – for their families and their communities – rather than just themselves.

Through numerous studies the author explores the idea that we can have too much choice in our lives. If we are presented with 100 different jams to choose from we’ll likely walk away without buying anything. But she also explores the effect of not having any choice – and often this will leave us feeling frustrated or even depressed. The Art of Choosing looks at difficult examples like having to decide whether to turn off your child’s life support – and frivolous things like whether you would choose Coca Cola or Pepsi and the reasons why. She examines how memory impacts on choices we make and how we feel about our decisions afterward, how our choices are manipulated by marketing – especially when it comes to fashion and beauty products, and the area of choice and temptation. This is a great book that will give you insight into how you make decisions in your own life.

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