The Art Of Choosing — Sheena Iyengar


I would 100% recommend you read this book. IYENGAR is a wonderful writer and an beautifully inquisitive mind too.

Although it is certainly non fiction, there are points where this book seems poetic.

I highlighted several hundred words from it so I won’t be able to share all my favourite bits but here are some of them:

A surprise today does prepare us, I suppose, for the ones still in store.

A profound statement on the availability of choice vs the pleasure of choosing:

Restrictions do not necessarily diminish a sense of control, and freedom to think and do as you please does not necessarily increase it.

This quote made me think of a really funny illustration that my Japanese friend Ken told me recently. He told me that the way to get British people off a sinking ship is to tell them it’s the proper thing to do. The way to get Japanese off a sinking ship is to tell them that everyone is doing it:

Rather than everyone looking out for number one, it’s believed that individuals can be happy only when the needs of the group as a whole are met. For example, the Japanese saying makeru ga kachi (literally “to lose is to win”) expresses the idea that getting one’s way is less desirable than maintaining peace and harmony.

And this made me think of childhood car journeys across France on family holidays with Garrison Keillor playing on the car stereo.

studies have shown that across the board, no matter what the ability in question, only the most minute fraction of people are willing to describe themselves as “below average.” Ninety percent of us believe ourselves to be in the top 10 percent in terms of overall intelligence and ability. At the very least, we have to congratulate ourselves on our creative statistics. This phenomenon is also sometimes known as the “Lake Wobegon effect,” after the fictional town described by radio show host Garrison Keillor as a place where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” In our minds, it seems, we are all proud citizens of Lake Wobegon.

This makes a lot of sense:

Research has shown that people are willing to spend significantly more when paying with a credit card than with cash—over twice as much in some studies.

I lol’ed at this:

Let me tell you a story that has made the rounds among my colleagues at Columbia University. Once upon a time, former faculty member Howard Raiffa, a pioneer in the field of decision analysis, was offered a position at Harvard, which was considered a step up in prestige. In an attempt to hold on to him, Columbia countered with an offer to triple his salary. Torn between the two options, he decided to ask his friend, a dean at Columbia, for advice. The dean, rather amused by the question, suggested that Raiffa use the techniques that had earned him the Harvard offer in the first place: Break the decision down into its components, map the relationship between them, and do the math to determine which option was best for him. “You don’t understand,” Raiffa responded. “This is a serious decision.”

This is particularly relevant at the moment, it seems to me:

A truly democratic society must, to a certain extent, encourage reactance. When people aren’t motivated to challenge threats to freedom, what’s to stop them from acquiescing to totalitarianism?

And how good was T.S. Eliot? Oh my goodness. This is beautiful:

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. —T. S. Eliot