Sheena Iyengar – The Art of Choosing

Brown toast or white?

I was listening to the Today programme, and came across Sheena Iyengar talking about her work on Choice and the Jam Experiment and it struck a chord with my experiences, shopping, at work, at play, living, in general,   just about everywhere. Here’s a link to the interview:

Sheena Iyengar

If it doesn’t work you can find her on You Tube too.

You see, I like to say, “I hate choice”, it’s one of my lines, something I say a lot, but what I am very bad at managing, is, simply having too much apparent choice.

I don’t want unlimited choices, I want to choose between two, or maybe three, real possibilities – not have to wade my way through piles of irrelevant stuff to get to what I think I need. I drown in choices; the out-of-focus photos on my computer,  the shelves of products in the supermarket, the endless channels on the tv that no one ever wants to watch.  It’s exhausting, time consuming and ultimately soul-destroying.

But, it’s not the prevailing thought pattern of the West, to want less choice,  is it? Choice is good, right?  More choice, better choice, good for business, good for what exactly?  Freedom = Choice. Isn’t that how it goes?  Does it?

I am not so sure, both of those concepts are pretty slippery at the best of times  and I’m hoping that this book will help me clarify my woolly thoughts and the idea of someone carrying out experiments on jam buying habits is a great one!

And she sounds clever and interesting too.

So I’m going to read her book and maybe I will get a bit smarter in the process.

9 thoughts on “Sheena Iyengar – The Art of Choosing

  1. blue

    hmmm …. freedom ….. choice ?

    Oh, I remember now, filed in the same folder as santa claus :)

  2. In a Welsh Garden

    Ooh this is a really interesting one , havn’t heard of this book (a reflection on me , I just don’t get enough time to listen out for things enough) but do let us know more about it when you’ve read it .
    I agree about the choice thing . Too much , today, for sure . It has ceased to mean anything . Also , I have a theory that because 1)we usually live longer (unless we meet an untimely end) and 2)there is so much choice , we often think that we have forever and that there is always more , and we throw away things (and relationships)that are worthwhile far too easily and just waste our precious lives going around in ever decreasing circles incessantly seeking out whatever it is that we think should make us happy . And not really finding it , or any real satisfaction . Be interested if this book is written from Buddhist stand point as much sounds like like it may have been ? Fab post x

  3. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    What an astonishing lady, to achieve all that she has while blind!

    I’m not overly bothered by choice any more (I used to be) because I no longer critically value the outcome as I used to. I think what makes choice difficult is an inherent belief that there is one “best” option, and we need to decide what that is. I’ve learnt over the years that that isn’t necessarily the case – often all options will perform the task at hand. I still have strong preferences, and love to experiment with new things, but I no longer feel any angst over deciding which is “best”.

    The other thing that has changed over the past ten years is that my choices are now largely driven by the relationships I have with the people who are offering me those choices. I’m much more likely these days to find people I trust, be it a fruit seller or a financial advisor, and then make a decision based on their advice.

  4. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Thanks for reading this post, and being kind enough to comment, it’s not really a bread post, it just kind of sneaked in here. I’ll let you know how the book pans out…

  5. Choclette

    I heard this too. I’m in total agreement, less is more. I get completely bewildered if there is too much on offer. In supermarkets I head straight for the things I know I want – can’t cope with looking through all that stuff. Recently I thought I’d join the rest of the world and get a mobile phone – only to find the choice was so overwhelming I gave up.

    But, I think, all this so called choice is just there to fool us all – it’s about large corporate companies over small producers . It’s actually really hard to get good products and food. We want to be able to buy raw milk, but this is so hemmed in by regulations that it’s near impossible.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I don’t think we are fooled, just confused temporarily and saddened and frustrated by lack of quality – hence all of us busy making and thinking and choosing not to play along with ‘the shops’. I went in the Apple Store in Bristol the other day and met the full force of the Apple sales technique. Quite fascinating… But I do understand about the mobile phones. Mine is 6 years old now and though I would like to be able to see the letters on the keys without glasses, it’s not that important that I need to subject myself to the torture of trying to ‘choose’ a new one :)

      I”ve started reading her book, good so far… :)

      Come and bake bread with me if you like, seriously!

  6. Choclette

    Another example of course is bread. I am unable to buy real bread – I can go to my local supermarket and have the choice of any number of factory processes breads, but not anything I would call bread!

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