Sheena Iyengar studies how people choose (and what makes us think we're good at it).

Why you should listen

We all think we're good at making choices; many of us even enjoy making them. Sheena Iyengar looks deeply at choosing and has discovered many surprising things about it. For instance, her famous "jam study," done while she was a grad student, quantified a counterintuitive truth about decisionmaking -- that when we're presented with too many choices, like 24 varieties of jam, we tend not to choose anything at all. (This and subsequent, equally ingenious experiments have provided rich material for Malcolm Gladwell and other pop chroniclers of business and the human psyche.)

Iyengar's research has been informing business and consumer-goods marketing since the 1990s. But she and her team at the Columbia Business School throw a much broader net. Her analysis touches, for example, on the medical decisionmaking that might lead up to choosing physician-assisted suicide, on the drawbacks of providing too many choices and options in social-welfare programs, and on the cultural and geographical underpinning of choice. Her book The Art of Choosing shares her research in an accessible and charming story that draws examples from her own life.

Watch a Facebook-exclusive short video from Sheena Iyengar: "Ballet Slippers" >>

What others say

"The Art of Choosing explores the cultural, social, and biological forces on the complex process of decision-making but is also deeply personal." — "Books to Read Now," Seed magazine

Sheena Iyengar’s TED talks

Sheena Iyengar on the TED Blog

Business

How to make choosing easier: Sheena Iyengar on TED.com

January 19, 2012

We all want customized experiences and products — but when faced with 700 options, consumers freeze up. With fascinating new research, Sheena Iyengar demonstrates how businesses (and others) can improve the experience of choosing. (Recorded at TEDSalon New York 2011, November 2011, in New York, NY. Duration: 16:05) Watch Sheena Iyengar’s talk on TED.com, where you can […]

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TEDGlobal 2010

On the art of choosing: Sheena Iyengar on TED.com

July 26, 2010

Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices — and how we feel about the choices we make. At TEDGlobal, she talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions. (Recorded at TEDGlobal 2010, July 2010 in Oxford, UK. Duration: […]

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Quotes from Sheena Iyengar

[Americans] think that choice, as seen through the American lens, best fulfills an innate and universal desire for choice in all humans. Unfortunately, these beliefs are based on assumptions that don’t always hold true in many countries, in many cultures.
Sheena Iyengar
TEDGlobal 2010 • 1.7M views Jul 2010
Fascinating, Informative
First-generation children were strongly influenced by their immigrant parents’ approach to choice. For them, choice was not just a way of defining and asserting their individuality, but a way to create community and harmony by deferring to the choices of people whom they trusted and respected.
Sheena Iyengar
TEDGlobal 2010 • 1.7M views Jul 2010
Fascinating, Informative
The American paradigm … leaves little room for interdependence or an acknowledgment of individual fallibility. It requires that everyone treat choice as a private and self-defining act.
Sheena Iyengar
TEDGlobal 2010 • 1.7M views Jul 2010
Fascinating, Informative