Choice, perhaps the highest good in the American socioeconomic lexicon, is a very mixed blessing, according to this fascinating study of decision making and its discontents. Psychologist Iyengar cites evidence that a paucity of choice can damage the mental and physical health of dogs, rats, and British civil servants alike. But, she contends, choice can also mislead and burden us: advertising manipulates us through the illusion of choice; a surfeit of choices can paralyze decision making; and some choices, like the decision to withdraw life support from a loved one, are so terrible that we are happier if we delegate them to others. Iyengar draws on everything from the pensees of Albert Camus to The Matrix, but her focus is on the ingenious experiments that psychologists have concocted to explore the vagaries of choice. (In her own experiment, shoppers presented with an assortment of 24 jams were 1/10th as likely to buy some than those who were shown a mere six.) Iyengar writes in a lucid, catchy style, very much in the Malcolm Gladwell vein of pop psychology-cum-social commentary, but with more rigor. The result is a delightful, astonishing take on the pitfalls of making up one’s mind.
–Starred Review ( Publisher’s Weekly)
As she tours the science of choice, Ms. Iyengar takes care to be provocative rather than prescriptive. Still, “The Art of Choosing” has an instructive point: It is possible to make better choices just by being more aware of the forces that affect our choices, how the choices we make affect our well-being and how we use choice to express and create our own identities.
– Pick an Ordeal, Any Ordeal (Wall Street Journal)
Unlike ‘provocative’ books designed to stir controversy, “The Art of Choosing” is refreshingly thought-provoking. Contemplating Iyengar’s wide-ranging exploration of choice leads to new questions: When is following custom a choice? How costly must a decision be to no longer qualify as a choice?
– Indecision Making (The New York Times)
Sheena Iyengar, a Columbia University business professor and social psychologist, is concerned with improving how we deal with all choices. She examines decisions both minor–like choosing the beverages we drink–and monumental, including the dilemma of parents faced with whether or not to keep brain-damaged infants on life support. Through personal stories, her own experiments and other research, she dissects perceptions of choice (do we actually have it, and how desirable is it?) and what those perceptions mean. – The Skimmer (Time Magazine)
[Sheena Iyengar's] book is a fashionable mix of biology, business and psychology research guided by an unusually reflective and humane intelligence. Moving from appalling studies on rats and dogs to the nuances of arranged marriage, how different cultures value choice, the reasons why people prefer Coca-Cola, or colour “prediction” in the fashion trade, Iyengar tells a complex story refreshingly free from the Gladwellian genre’s usual vice of monothematic overstatement.
– Et Cetera (The Guardian)
[T]imely and instantly applicable…a masterful, and masterfully written, collection of research that leaves the reader glad he chose to pick it up. Prose: A, Construction: B+, Miscellaneous: A+
–The Art of Choosing (Newsweek)
A Columbia Business School professor and social psychologist who has researched choice extensively, Sheena Iyengar offers an insightful, provocative, and downright entertaining look at how we choose.
– Seeing What’s at Work Behind Our Choices (Boston Globe)
The desire and need for choice are universal, and so innate that we act on it even before we can express it, says Sheena Iyengar in “The Art of Choosing” (Twelve, $25.99)…Iyengar, who holds a doctorate in social psychology from Stanford University and a degree from Whatron School of business, says our minds operate on two levels simultaneously; one, conscious and reflective, the other unconscious and automatic. We can subconsciously register information without becoming consciously aware of it.
–Business Books: Choices and how we make them (Gunna Dickson, Reuters)
Iyengar wants us to recognize that our decisions-both the mundane and momentous-are influenced by many factors and that the more we recognize those factors, the more satisfied we will be.
– MIND Reviews: The Art of Choosing (Scientific American)
[Sheena Iyengar's] personal style and anecdote-heavy narration makes for an immensely readable book, one that addresses a potentially nebulous topic and delivers a treatment that is as much modern philosophy as social science.
– Clear Look at How the Choices We Make Define Us (The Irish Times)
What truly differentiates her from all the glib, pop-neuroscience raconteurs out there is more than a sense of rigor. The Art of Choosingexplores the cultural, social, and biological forces on the complex process of decision-making but is also deeply personal, describing how the author’s blindness and the tenets of her Sikh immigrant parents affected her perspective on choice. The result is a rich consideration of this social construct, with an articulate conclusion: Choice–both in dearth and surfeit–shapes our daily lives and the stories we tell about them.
–The Art of Choosing (Seed Magazine)
Prominent social psychologist Iyengar begins her unique and invigorating study of choice by telling the story of a man who survived for 76 days stranded alone in the middle of the ocean. He chose to live, Iyengar tells us, just as she has chosen not to let her blindness keep her from conducting prodigious research and intrepid experiments. Iyengar exponentially expands our understanding of the central role choice plays in the lives of animals and humans in a rapid-fire, many-faceted, and original inquiry that is at once personable and commanding. She explains our ”biological need for choice and control,” the decision process, and the myriad influences that dictate everything from purchasing choices to career moves, voting, medical decisions, and marriage. The daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, Iyengar is particularly astute in her globally significant analysis of the striking differences between how Americans and Asians make decisions. Much of this eye-opening anatomy of choice focuses on consumerism, a lively, revealing arena, but Iyengar’s high-voltage curiosity and penetrating insights are far more valuable when applied to deeper matters of existence.
–The Art of Choosing Review (Donna Seaman, Booklist)
Iyengar’s wit and engaging writing style ease the reader through chapters on harder choices, from taking a loved one off life support to the paradox inherent in American life: that freedom of choice should make us happy, but having too many options is overwhelming and often leads to depression…Iyengar hopes that understanding the thinking behind our choices may lead us to ‘metaphorical multilingualism,’ or understanding that goes beyond mere tolerance. She manifests it in her own work by writing with ‘sighted’ language despite being blind since early childhood, and she encourages others to take a step outside what they might consider normal in order to enlarge their own views on life. Read The Art of Choosing, and be prepared to see the options life presents you through new eyes.
–Listening to what our choices tell us about ourselves (Heather Seggel,BookPage.com)
She is widely considered one of the leading authorities on choice theory; other researchers cite her work extensively. But even though Iyengar is a seasoned academic, The Art of Choosing is readily accessible to anyone who has minimal exposure to the areas her book covers.
– Resource Reviews (Counseling Today)