on 6 August 2010
Before choosing to buy this book I saw both on a visit to the book shop and suggested by recommendation on Amazon;I decided to observe how many times I made a choice that day and to analyzing what were the reasons for choosing.By mid-day I rushed back to the bookshop hoping that the book was still there.
This book is a must for anyone who wants to understand a basic activity we exercise every moment of our lives.
The book is well and clearly written with lots of interesting anecdotes.
I feel privileged to have been taken on this narrative journey and saddened when I finished it.
I recommend it.
on 24 December 2010
I was sitting in New York at JFK airport in November 2010, bored stiff. I bought a copy of the FT. (International edition] In this was a review of the above book:
" Iyengar, a psychologist and professor at Columbia Business School, is a pioneer in the study of how we make choices, and her book is in a class apart from the pop- psych ramblings that clog the bookshelves. An erudite and elegant investigation of choice and its effect on issues, such as marketing, employment and healthcare."
So I bought the book because of the review. The content is stimulating and will certainly encourage you, to think about the decisions/choices that you make across all aspects of your life
The author has a tendency to drift from one concept/idea to another. The book I found, also did not fully come across as a cohesive, integated whole, this was most apparent towards the end. One of the strengths of the book, is the extensive literature, research and range of people she has used, in putting this very readable book together.
The very extensive reviews in the US are broadly positive. (See Amazon.com) However some refer to other books, on this sort of topic which some reviewers say are worth considering/better than this one. I have not read the alternatives that are put forward, but have bought some 200+ books from Amazon, over the past few years and reviewed 100+ and regard this as a reasonable buy. My rating is somewhere between 3-4 stars.
In one review in the US the author is described as a " brave and determined women," yes, this most certainly comes across after reading the book. Despite her blindness she has written, a surprising and insightful book. The last part of the book needs pulling together more effectively, to do justice to the content which is generally of good quality.
Stan Felstead - Interchange Resources UK.
on 16 August 2010
Easy choices - like cake or death, as in British comedian Eddie Izzard's famous routine - don't require much thought or study. But almost any other choice invites complications and confusion, a problem social psychologist Sheena Iyengar mines and turns into fascinating reading. In this study of different facets of decision making, she delves into such topics as whether your devotion to Coca-Cola relies on its taste or its ties to Santa Claus, and she touches upon subjects as varied as fashion, rats, jam, arranged marriage, and even the life and death of premature babies. This compelling book (with a beautiful cover) answers questions about decisiveness with intriguing studies, though you may not agree with every conclusion. Perhaps Iyengar could have offered her suggestions for improved, real-life decision making more succinctly, but she provides excellent detail, plus take-home tips for making better choices in the supermarket or the boardroom. Given the fine job she's done combining research with gee-whiz revelations, getAbstract suggests this book to managers, marketers, public relations professionals and all sales executives.
on 25 July 2011
A real practical support for getting acquainted with your own decision process and all factors influencing the way you perceive and then choose.
It requires to be read very slowly in order to recognize and match the patterns described, thus getting the most of it.
on 14 April 2011
Both the title and spiel on the back of the book suggest you'll 'gain the ability to make better informed decisions'. That's pretty unlikely from the first 268pp, as the author ruefully acknowledges (from her earlier readers' comments) in the Afterword. So there then follows 8pp of 'choice techniques', which most readers will find amount to nothing special.
And the first 268pp? As another Amazon Reviewer (AR) implies, they consist of a rambling collection of research data and their woolly conclusions from which little can be usefully distilled. Because the author actually writes clearly but lacks a decent editor, it would be too harsh to say it's waffle.
Anyone researching the psychobiology of choosing will be interested in the sweep and detail of this content; though beware, there is a particularly harrowing account of testing rats, which are intelligent animals, to their destruction (Richter, 1957). For a pop-psycho book, this episode should have been toned down for today's readers.
As another AR says, there are indeed many other good books on well-grounded and practical decision-making techniques, and this work must be compared against these; hence the one star.
With a researcher's and practitioner's interest in decision-making, I did not have to ponder over the choice to buy this book. Nor did I struggle with reading its 268 pages in just over 4 hours. Professor Sheena Iyengar has written an engaging treatise on what choice means to human beings, how we make choices in the face of sometimes confounding contradictions and uncertainties, and how the sheer option and the act of choosing can affect our well-being. The illustrative examples and stories cover a wide range - from the trivial, such as picking between two colours of nail polish, to the serious life-and-death choice of whether to keep a sick neo-nate on life support or to turn it off.
Using many such stories from research, Professor Iyengar shows how the desire for choice, as a way to exercise control, is universal. She demonstrates how our "framing" of choices depends upon the stories we have been told, and our beliefs that may arise from our culture, religion, ethnicity etc. A freedom to choose may be a "freedom to" or "freedom from", as Erich Fromm has written so how in an increasingly globalised world do we reconcile all these differences in perspective? Professor Iyengar proposes a sort of "metaphorical multilingualism", using her own example of how she uses the language of sighted people although she is functionally blind.
Professor Iyengar takes us on a fascinating exploration of American history to show how choice relates to identity, and yet how many more people are alike than not although they prefer to think otherwise. Such contradictions contained within us in Walt Whitman-esque multitudes, she argues that we constantly rearrange our identities to appear independent-thinking, identity being a dynamic process not a static object. We adjust our behaviours and lives to reinforce that identity seeking, she writes, common ground without being copycats. If you pick only one chapter to read from this book, I would recommend Chapter 3.
Further we learn how choices are not just about possibility, but also responsibility and consequences, foreseeable or otherwise. Professor Iyengar discusses our automatic (subconscious) and our reflective (conscious) brain, and how trouble arises when they are in disagreement. What follows is a thought-provoking discourse on how we use heuristics and employ our preferences and biases, sometimes using them to colour our search for information, which ends with a soft suggestion that sometimes it may be better to throw in our lot with others or their experience.
Is there such a thing as too much choice? Research suggests that to be the case. Choice, as we see, is not an unconditional good. There are limits to human cognition and we may need to cultivate expertise to deal with the surfeit on offer. And then there are complex choices, such as in medically serious situations, which require us to put a "value" on things which have "worth" for us, exacting a mental cost which we are unable to assess fully at the time of making the choice. Choice, Professor Iyengar concludes, is an art with its uncertainties and contradictions, and in its mystery lies its puissance: a conclusion most readers of this book may choose to agree with.
It was difficult for me to give the book 4 stars instead of 5. Here is why I struggled. While the stories are fascinating, some sections meander and one can lose the thread pretty quickly. Having read the book, I can empathise with how difficult the editorial choices might have been: which of the research references to keep, and which to edit away. It was a choice and the editor chose to keep them all in. A research described in Chapter 3 discusses using a scale where research subjects had to determine if something was "moderately unique" or "very unique". This was mildly irritating. These phrases may be colloquial usage but that does not make them correct.
Star rating: 4 out of 5
Usefulness note: A thought-provoking book which most will benefit from reading. However as Professor Iyengar warns, introspection or self-examination is not everyone's cup of tea, so it is unlikely to be a comforting read for all. It does however offer several points of departure for thinking about things around us. From brand marketing to politics, to how various nations are dealing with the recession.
on 2 January 2011
This is quite an interesting book, but in a crowded marketplace (there are loads of books about decision-making research now) I'm not sure it's one anyone really needs to read.
The style is nice - easy going and lots of anecdotes are used to bring the ideas behind the research into real world scenarios. But I personally felt the book falls between two stools. It's not really detailed enough if you are interested in the underlying research (though there are lots of references at the end for particular paper). In addition, if you have read much in this area (Nudge, Predictably Irrational etc) you will probably be very familiar with both some of the research and the particular biases that have been identified.
If, on the other hand, you are simply looking for some tips about how to improve your decision-making whilst these are present in the text they aren't really made explicit. In this case you will probably feel you have to wade through quite a lot of text to find a few nuggets.
This is a shame as Iyengar is clearly an expert in this field, and some of her research is very interesting (and the jam-buying example is world famous). Therefore whilst I enjoyed the book, I didn't feel I learned much from it.
on 4 May 2010
I picked up Sheena Iyengar's book in a book shop in Dubai and didn't put it down until I'd finished it. An academically robust and stimulating read, it combines thought provoking research on how we choose everything from pensions to jams. A lovely narrative style means it's easy to get through too.
If you are in the business of getting people to choose what you want them to I'd highly recommend it.
Phil Hesketh (UK)
on 19 May 2011
This book is an absorbing read - Sheena Iyengar writes beautifully and I looked forward to reading each chapter. But ultimately, the book is disjointed - I enjoyed learning about the content (even if some experiments are over-familiar), but I cannot honestly summarise the main themes in the book without re-reading it.
I guess, partly, this reflects Iyengar's belief that we artifically impose structure on our lives through our choices, which even influence the way we look at our past and our decisions. So perhaps, she intentionally decided not to structure the book and simply present a random sequence of experiments and themes.
But just as life can be vast and confusing without stories - so this book is too vast and confusing without some form of thrust or structure.
on 30 December 2010
I bought this bought because it was reviewed in the Financial Times. My expectations were high as it is not related to financial issues. If you want to read how behavioural psychologists stimulate rats to swim for 60 hours before they drown or how dogs can be electrically shocked into submission this is the book for you. Much of the text is annecdotal, there is no big picture here about the process of choosing.
I made a poor choice.