Looking At The “Art” of Choosing

(Editor’s note: This article is from a past issue of Brain World magazine. If you enjoy this article, please consider a print or digital subscription!)


How much control do you have in your life? Have you ever refrained from doing something that you wanted to do because you didn’t have a choice? Do you spend more time than desired in the cereal aisle at the grocery store trying to decide?

In “The Art of Choosing,” Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar thoroughly analyzes the concept of choice, something that she has been pondering since a very young age. As a Sikh immigrant from India, she was conscious of the different views toward choice while growing up in America. While her family and religion told her what to eat and whom to marry, her American friends lived lives abundant with choices, in comparison.

Choice is associated with freedom, but only after understanding the “art” of choosing can one avoid manipulation from advertising, recognize cultural traps, and master coping with the choices that one must make or has made.

Iyengar presents stories and experiments showing that your own survival can depend on choice. Steven Callahan, captain of the Napoleon Solo, was lost at sea for 76 days. In his case, survival was a choice he made every day, instead of accepting any idea of “fate.”

Being presented with more choices can actually delay the decision-making process, as shown in Iyengar’s jam experiment, where shoppers purchased more jams when the number of choices was reduced from 24 varieties to six.


Iyengar will leave the reader pondering how they view choice and open a door of reflection to how much control one has over destiny. “It’s when we tell the story of our lives in terms of choice, that it gives meaning to the things we do every day,” Iyengar writes.

(Editor’s note: This article is from a past issue of Brain World magazine. If you enjoy this article, please consider a print or digital subscription!)

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