Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar: A Review

By John Cheeran
Beggars cannot be choosers. Sheena Iyengar, a professor at the Columbia Business School, has come up with various case studies on how people arrive at their choices in her The Art of Choosing, but there is nothing in the book that makes one reconsider the opening statement.
The art of choosing is a difficult science to master is the message that Iyengar offers to her readers. She starts with some survival stories and points out how decisions to fight on despite slim chances of making it made all the difference in those people’s lives. Making an informed or inspired choice can make all the difference in your life story.
Iyengar, however, has not succeeded in arriving at a unifying principle that allows anyone to make his or her choices easier. Situations such as Sophie’s Choice will pop up in your life. Iyengar, remember, does not have any tips for Sophie. That being the case, there are some interesting aspects that have been put through the rigours of research such as the famous Jam Study conducted by the author. It tells us that having too many options to choose from is not necessarily a good thing as when customers in a US supermarket were bewildered by the sheer number of choices before them and stayed away from making one. So now many pundits believe that the more is less when it comes to making choices. Some choices are not choices at all. For some of us having to choose is a dilemma bordering on fear.
Culture is an important factor in shaping our ideas about who or what exercises control in a specific situation. There is a marked difference in the way individualist and collectivist cultures go about making their choices. Multiple choices demand that you superthink through the offerings and make your choice. Iyengar’s failure is that her book does not offer any insights while you attempt to superthink through the buffet of choices.


goutamjay said...

I think th flaw that you have cited is same with every non-fiction book in the market. Information is flooded around us in such a way that we don't have the audacity to create something new. I hope there will be a reversal of things pretty soon.

Anuradha Goyal said...

I actually prefer books that are not prescriptive, but give me the core understanding of the subject. And precisely for this reason I loved reading this book.

Here is my review of this book:

John Cheeran at Blogged