The Art of Choosing

Sheena Iyengar just took me around the world in 18 minutes through her talk, “The Art of Choosing,” on TEDGlobal.  Although based at Columbia University, she starts her lecture with an experience in Japan where she tells a story about ordering tea.  From there Dr. Iyengar humorously, yet with scholarly background describes how the concept of choice varies around the world in comparison to the U.S.  She addressed the following American assumptions regarding choice and how these assumptions hold up in other cultures:

  1. If a choice affects you, you should be the one to make it.
  2. The more choices you have, the more likely you are to make the best choice.
  3. You must never to say “no” to choice.
Her talk reminded me of my experience choosing a college.  My dad was pretty determined that I should go to Emory University so I applied early decision, was accepted, and enrolled without applying to any other colleges.  At the time I was furious because I felt I didn’t have a choice.  It’s a story I tell students often and I always joke at the end that it was the best decision my dad ever made for me (it really was).  It’s funny the responses I get depending on who I tell.  My American students tend to be slightly appalled that I didn’t decide where to go to school, however, when I’ve told international students my story, I don’t get the same reaction. What are your thoughts on choice?

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