Rating

9

Qualities

  • Innovative
  • Applicable

Recommendation

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 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.

Summary

Choosing Life or Death

Would you sink or swim if you found yourself adrift in the ocean? That is, could you be like Steven Callahan? He’s the boater who survived a capsizing accident by spending 76 days on a raft 800 miles from the Canary Islands living on barnacles and rainwater. Or would you give up and die? No one can say for sure, but it’s interesting to consider for many reasons, including the idea of choice. That theme unites the stories of many survivors who define their life-and-death decisions as deliberate choices. Callahan wrote, “I choose to kick as long as I can.” Most people hope their survival doesn’t depend on that, though choices do define people.

Even rats act differently if they seem to believe it will save their lives. When psychobiology researchers in 1957 put rats in individual jars of water to see how long they would swim before drowning, rats of similar strength swam surprisingly different time spans. Some sank almost immediately; others swam an average of 60 hours. In a follow-up, researchers put the rats in the water jars, let them “wriggle free,” caged them and immersed them, over and over. Put in the water for the last time, the rats all...

About the Author

Sheena Iyengar, Ph.D., is a business professor at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal.


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